5 Feb 2011

Myanmar president named

6:11 am on 5 February 2011

Parliament in Myanmar has named outgoing prime minister Thein Sein as the country's first civilian president after nearly 50 years of military rule.

But the move is seen as a cosmetic shift that does little to end the army's overwhelming influence on politics.

Thein Sein is an ally of General Than Shwe. His vice-presidents will be Tin Aung Myint Oo and Sai Mauk Kham.

The BBC reports all three are members of the military-backed USDP party, which won a large majority in last November's polls.

The election, Myanmar's first in 20 years, was widely condemned as a sham.

Thein Sein, a career soldier who first joined the military government in 1997, will now appoint ministers to serve in his new administration.

Critics expect most of the other senior positions in the new government to go to serving or retired military officers.

The BBC reports the appointment of Thein Sein, 65, was widely expected.

He is the leader of the newly formed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which won almost 77% of the vote in the election.

The BBC reports the appointment of a president is the final step in a "roadmap to democracy" - moving the country from military to civilian rule.

But a quarter of the seats in parliament are reserved for the military.

At the first sitting of parliament on Monday, Thura Shwe Mann - the junta's number three leader who stood down from the military to run in the polls - was appointed lower house Speaker.

Former Culture Minister Khin Aung Myint was named as Speaker of the Upper House.

The National League for Democracy, the party of Aung San Suu Kyi which won the last elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power, is not represented in parliament. It disbanded before the election in November.