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Myanmar expected to announce new president within weeks

A Myanmar official has said new presidential candidates will not be named until at least mid-March. Speculation persists over who will serve as proxy for the top party's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently barred.

Parliament chairman Mann Win Khaing Than announced on Monday that the upper house, the lower house and the military will have to select one candidate each for the president and two vice presidents positions before March 17, and submit them to parliament the same day.

Three presidential candidates will be nominated, one by each of the lower and upper chambers and one from the army, which retains 25 percent of parliament's seats.

The new president will then be chosen by a vote of the combined houses, where Aung San Suu Kyi's National Lead for Democracy (NLD) holds the majority of seats.

By the time the decision is finally reached, Myanmar voters will have waited more than four months to discover who their new president will be.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from taking office as president.

NLD leader and pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi said last week, however, that it was "not yet time to form a government," urging people not to be "anxious."

Apparent move from military rule

The NLD lawmakers won a landslide majority in November's polls, and have promised to reform the constitution and curb the powers of the military. The party won 80 percent of elected seats and more than half the popular vote, although it still faces hurdles in its quest for reform.

Suu Kyi is currently barred from the role of president by a junta-era constitution, because she married and had children with a foreigner. She has vowed to overcome the obstacle by ruling "above" a proxy president. Speculation persists, however, that the delay in reaching a decision on candidates could mean that her party and the military remain in talks over allowing the Nobel laureate to take up the post after all.

The military has held power in Myanmar since 1962, ruling either directly or through proxy governments. It called an election in 1990, which Suu Kyi's party won comfortably.

However, the military annulled the results and Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for 15 of the next 22 years.

ksb/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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