Burma elects vice-presidents to vie for top job

File image of Thein Sein
Image caption Than Shwe ally Thein Sein is seen as the presidential front-runner

Lawmakers in Burma have elected two out of three vice-presidents - one of whom will go on to become the next president.

The lower house chose Thein Sein, the prime minister in the outgoing military government and a trusted ally of top general Than Shwe.

The upper house voted for Sai Mauk Kham, an ethnic Shan also from the military-backed USDP party.

The USDP won a large majority in the 7 November polls.

The elections, the first in the country for two decades, were part of what the Burmese junta said was a transfer from military to civilian rule.

But they were widely criticised by Western nations and the Burmese pro-democracy opposition, and left the military firmly in control of the new parliament.

A quarter of the seats in parliament are reserved for the military. They pick the third candidate - this name has not been formally confirmed but is believed to be Tin Aung Myint Oo, another Than Shwe ally.

The president will be elected from the trio of vice-presidential picks, possibly on Friday. Thein Sein is seen as the most likely choice.

Than Shwe, who has ruled Burma since 1992, appears not to be seeking the top job.

It remains unclear what role he will play in the future.

But analysts say the 77-year-old 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.

The Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy, which won the last elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power, is not represented in parliament.

It disbanded ahead of the 7 November election because of election laws that would have forced it to expel its leaders.

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