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U Win Myint’s vote in polls stirs debate controversy

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President-elect U Win Myint will take his oath today in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw amid a debate over whether he was constitutionally allowed to vote during the presidential election on Wednesday.

After the ballots were counted in Wednesday’s presidential vote, he became the 10th president of the country.

Earlier in the week, he resigned as speaker of the Lower House and was subsequently elected as vice president.

In compliance with the provision of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, he competed with military-appointed Vice President U Myint Swe, and NLD-backed Vice President U Henry Van Thio for the post of president.

During the voting, he cast his ballot, but this is now the subject of debate on social media, where proponents and opponents are exchanging comments and criticism.

It is not possible to withdraw the vote, and doing so would not change the result, but the debate is worth examining, at least to clear the confusion over the process of electing the head of state.

One topic of debate is if the two vice presidents who ran against U Win Myint were treated fairly. Both U Myint Swe and U Henry Van Thio did not vote, while U Win Myint cast a ballot, probably for himself.

In 2016, U Henry Van Thio, the presidential candidate of the Amyotha Hluttaw, voted in the presidential election, and U Htin Kyaw, the Pyithu Hluttaw candidate, won.

Section 63 of the constitution says if a parliamentarian or a civil servant is elected president or vice president, the person is deemed to have resigned or retired from being a legislator or a civil servant.

Political commentator U Yan Myo Thein said that since the Pyithu Hluttaw already elected U Win Myint as vice president, he was not eligible to cast a ballot during the voting.

“His vote can be interpreted as if he had two positions – lawmaker and vice president,” he said.

He said the Constitutional Tribunal should review the vote and decide if it was constitutional or not. It would be “good precedent,” he said.

“The constitution does not say he is vice president elect. It says vice president, which means he is already elected to the position,” U Yan Myo Thein said.

Having been elected as vice president, U Win Myint should not have voted, said U Thaung Aye, Pyithu Hluttaw lawmaker of the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

“He was considered to have already resigned from being an MP,” he said.

This shows a lack of clear legal interpretation in the constitution or in election law.

The USDP will not file an official objection, but likely will want the incident reviewed to avoid confusion in the future, U Thaung Aye said.

MPs from the ruling NLD, however, insist that the voting of the vice president was in line with the charter.

U Hla Moe, a lawmaker, and secretary of the Pyithu Hluttaw Rights Committee. said U Win Myint remains a parliament representative although he was vice president.

“According to the rules, the Pyithu Hluttaw has right to nominate a vice president, so we chose him, but it does not mean he was appointed as vice president,” he said.

“He remained a Pyithu Hluttaw representative because we didn’t appoint him as vice president,” said U Hla Moe.

He said parliamentary representatives are considered to have resigned from the lawmaker position only after the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw elects them as president or vice president and it is published in the State Gazette.

Vice President (2) U Henry Van Thio also attended the voting as an observer with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. He did not cast a vote.

Another NLD MP said she thinks the vote by U Win Myint did not violate the constitution.

“I think they mistook constitutional sections, so they have different views. In my opinion, U Win Myint had the right to cast a vote,” said Daw Zin Mar Aung.

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