Asia

Has Aung San Suu Kyi' picked Myanmar's president?

An NLD supporter celebrates the election win in Yangon (9 Nov 2015) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Its supporters may have celebrated but the NLD has largely avoided triumphalism after its landslide win

The first time Aung San Suu Kyi's party won a general election the Burmese army refused to accept the result.

So it's understandable that everything she's done since the National League for Democracy's victory last November has been focused on avoiding a repeat of 1990 and making sure that this time power is actually transferred.

There's been no victory rally, no triumphalism, and respectful overtures have been made not just to the current president and the commander in chief of the army, but also the former military ruler Than Shwe.

Much to the frustration of the local media The Lady has been saying very little about how the talks are progressing.

There's been no word on whether she's still pushing to be president, whether the constitution might be changed, or who she has in mind for the government she plans to lead.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Ms Suu Kyi has held talks with outgoing President Thein Sein, among others, since her party's win

Though it was talked up a few months ago the prospect of the NLD nominating Ms Suu Kyi for president appears to have receded.

She's still barred by the constitution because her sons are British not Burmese, but there had been speculation that a deal might be struck to waive or suspend the clause.

If that is the plan, those in the know, both in the army and in the NLD, are very good at keeping secrets.

It now seems likely that Ms Suu Kyi has chosen to consolidate her win and stick with the plan she articulated pre-election. That she would nominate someone loyal and that she would lead the government from "above" them.

That moment is fast approaching. Myanmar's newly elected parliament gathers for the first time on Monday and one of its first tasks will be to choose a successor to Thein Sein.

Such is the numerical advantage of the NLD in parliament and Ms Suu Kyi's dominance over party affairs, that the presidency is effectively her gift to give.

So are we closer to knowing who that puppet president might be?

'Delicately handling matters'

From Ms Suu Kyi there have been few clues, apart from indicating it would be a civilian and a current party member.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption NLD spokesman Nyan Win let slip a few key names

The elderly men who make up the leadership of the NLD are less discreet. When journalists call, if they've got information they tend to talk.

So last week there was a flurry of excitement when long-time NLD spokesman Nyan Win told the French news agency AFP the names of the party's candidates for lower and upper house speaker.

U Win Myint, who's been very visible during the transition talks, was apparently in line to take the powerful position of speaker of the lower house. So not president.

His appointment was later confirmed by the party. But the "leak" of information was revealing and clearly infuriated Ms Suu Kyi. Shortly afterwards the NLD released a statement.

"The NLD has been delicately handling matters at the moment," it said.

"That's why only the NLD chair [Ms Suu Kyi] has the right to speak regarding the issues of NLD policies and transitional matters."

A trusted adviser?

It was a clear expression of what many already knew. Party policy and strategy is being driven by Ms Suu Kyi and a small group of advisers around her.

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Media captionWho will be Myanmar's new president?

She doesn't trust anyone else not to mess it up.

Then this week came another clue in the presidential puzzle. Aung San Suu Kyi's personal doctor suddenly made an appearance at a key meeting with army Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Dr Tin Myo Win has long been mentioned as a possible presidential pick. He meets Ms Suu Kyi's two stated criteria - as a civilian and an NLD member, and is one of her closest confidantes.

Image copyright Sen Gen Min Aung Hlaing
Image caption The appearance of Dr Tin Myo Win (far left) alongside Ms Suu Kyi for talks with the military has increased speculation about his role

During her years under house arrest he was one of the few people the generals allowed to visit at her house on University Avenue. In recent years the doctor has also become more involved in the politics of the NLD, and has helped shape its policies on healthcare.

When I spoke to him on the phone in December I asked him directly if he would serve as Myanmar's president if asked to.

"I'm not interested," he said. "I'm a surgeon so I more or less prefer to do my job rather than the other things."

Take that with a pinch of salt. If he's not interested in politics why then was he suddenly one of the four people Ms Suu Kyi chose to sit alongside her at important discussions with the army?

Dr Tin Myo Win hadn't been involved in transition talks before and Ms Suu Kyi didn't look in need of medical back-up.

Could this have been a first opportunity for Ms Suu Kyi to introduce the commander-in-chief to her hand-picked president? A way of ensuring that things go smoothly when his name is proposed in parliament?

We'll soon know for sure. For now there's no-one to allowed to give us the official answer, apart from Ms Suu Kyi.

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