Asia-Pacific

Burma leader Than Shwe 'not presidential nominee'

Burma's leader senior general Than Shwe (pictured 27 March 2010)
Image caption Analysts say the country's most powerful general, Than Shwe, is unlikely to relinquish all power

Burma's long-standing leader Than Shwe is not on a list of presidential nominees, suggesting he will no longer be the country's official ruler.

Parliament has put forward five names, reports say, from which a president and two vice-presidents will be selected.

The most prominent figure listed is Thein Sein, the prime minister in the outgoing military government, and a trusted ally of Than Shwe.

Analysts believe Than Shwe will remain a dominant force in Burma.

Some analysts say the 77-year-old general is unlikely to relinquish all power and is expected to either remain as head of the powerful military or take a significant behind-the-scenes political position.

Speaking to the BBC's World Have Your Say programme, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that it was too early to assess what effect Than Shwe's apparent decision not to seek the role of president would have.

"I am not sure what role General Than Shwe is going to play in the future. All I know is that he does not seem to be on the list," she said.

Much depended on who would be in charge of the army.

"Whoever is in charge of the army will have at least as much power and influence, if not more, than the president himself," she said.

Nominees

Burma's parliament is expected to vote on Thursday for the first civilian president after nearly 50 years of military rule.

The upper and lower houses of parliament each put forward two names as candidates for the posts of president and vice-president.

These comprised two from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which won a big majority in the election, and two from parties representing Burma's ethnic minorities.

The lower house named Thein Sein, leader of the USDP and outgoing prime minister, and ethnic Karen politician Saw Thein Aung.

Sai Mauk Kham, an ethnic Shan from the USDP, and Aye Maung from the Rakhine National Democratic party - which is not a military proxy party - were chosen by the upper house.

A quarter of seats in the new parliament are reserved for the armed forces and they chose the fifth candidate; Tin Aung Myint Oo - the outgoing regime's fifth-in-command.

The names of the first four candidates were announced on state television, but not the fifth.

Burma's first parliament in more than two decades convened for the first time on Monday.

The appointment of a president will be the final step in Burma's so-called "roadmap to democracy". But the military and its proxies hold a dominant role in parliament and thus huge sway over its policies.

At the first sitting Thura Shwe Mann - the junta's number three leader who stood down from the military to run in the polls as a civilian - was appointed lower house Speaker.

The former Culture Minister Khin Aung Myint was named as Speaker of the Upper House.

The main Aung San Suu Kyi-led opposition party remains outside formal politics.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) won an overwhelming victory in the last elections in 1990 but was prevented by the military junta from taking power.

The party was dissolved by the government because it boycotted the 7 November election - a poll widely criticised by Western governments and by democracy activists within Burma as a sham.

But Aung San Suu Kyi told the BBC that the NLD is thriving.

"I think it's at its strongest because we have a lot of young people now supporting our cause. And in a much more active way than we have ever done in the past," she told listeners around the world.

Around the BBC