Burma names Junta chief president

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Thein Sein has been named as Burma's new president

Burma has named the premier of the outgoing military government Thein Sein as the country’s new president, handing a key junta member the top job in the post-election administration.

The appointment of Thein Sein, 65, was the latest step in Burma’s self-declared transition to democracy following elections in November, but critics have condemned the process as a sham aimed at cementing military rule.

The military’s delegates in parliament and their civilian allies hold an 80% majority in the new legislature, which hand-picked the new president from a pool of three vice presidents named on Thursday.

Thein Sein is the most prominent of the three and was seen as favourite for the job.

An upper house politician, Khin Shwe said Thein Sein won 408 out of 659 votes.

The future role of junta chief Senior General Than Shwe, who has been in power since 1992, remains unclear, but he is expected to remain a dominant force.

Under the 2008 constitution, which came into force on Monday with the opening of the Union Parliament, the president appoints the commander in chief, chief ministers of the regions and states and several Cabinet ministers.

The president has the authority to sever diplomatic relations with foreign countries with parliament’s approval and grant pardons or amnesties with the recommendation of the National Defence and Security Council, of which he is the head.

Thein Sein is a former general who served as the junta’s prime minister from October 2007 and now heads the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which won a huge majority in November’s general elections. Much of the international community dismissed these elections as being rigged in favour of the junta.

He also has an image as a “clean” soldier, not engaged in corruption. As prime minister and the fourth-ranking military leader in the junta, he previously did not have much decision-making power.

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