02/04/2011, 00.00
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Thein Sein is Myanmar’s new president

The Burmese parliament elects the military junta’s outgoing prime minister with 408 votes. Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo (171 votes) and Sai Mauk Kham (75 votes) will be the new vice-presidents. Despite uncertainties about his role, strongman Than Shwe will continue to wield the real power.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Burmese parliament (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) elected the country’s new president. Thein Sein, 65, the ruling military junta’s outgoing Prime Minister, was picked as the country’s new head of state. He will be the dictatorship’s “acceptable” face to the world.

Thein Sein won 408 votes, giving him a wide lead over the runner-up, Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo (171 votes) and Sai Mauk Kham (75 votes), who will become the new vice-presidents.

However, strongman General Than Shwe, the real leader of the country, will continue to pull the strings from behind the scene. He can rely on a parliament elected in a phony election, stacked with military or former military officers.

The president-elect (the eighth in the country’s history) and his two vice-presidents belong to the ruling party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is backed by the military.

A retired general, Thein Sein won the country’s highest office despite persistent rumours that he is seriously ill and past statements in which he said he did not want any top leadership posts.

In October 2007, following the monk-led saffron revolution crushed in blood by the military, Thein Sein temporarily took over the prime minister’s post from Soe Win, who was seriously ill. When the latter died, Thein Sein was formally invested with the office, becoming famous for his nickname, “Mr Clean”, because he was not involved in any corruption scandals like other Burmese politicians.

The new president is viewed by many in the international community as the military regime’s “acceptable” face.

However, it is still unclear what role General Than Shwe, the military junta’s strongman, will play. However, whether he remains behind the scenes or stands out in the open, he will remain Myanmar’s real boss.

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