Myanmar brings forward date for presidential nominations to March 10

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar will announce presidential nominations on March 10, the speaker of its upper house of parliament said on Tuesday, advancing the original date by a week, as a lengthy political transition in the Southeast Asian nation enters its last stages.

Myanmar's National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves after she attended as an observer for opening of the new upper house of parliament in Naypyitaw February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

The news follows three meetings on the transition between military chief Min Aung Hlaing and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy will dominate the incoming government after having won the Nov. 8 election.

The meetings sparked speculation that a deal would be struck to allow Suu Kyi to become president, despite a constitutional bar, and even though the military showed no wavering in its view that there should be no rapid amendment to remove the hurdle.

“The date for holding the meetings of the three presidential electoral colleges has been put forward by one week, to March 10,” said Mahn Win Khaing Than, the speaker of the upper house of parliament.

The NLD swept some 80 percent of elected seats in November, enough to push through its president, but Suu Kyi is blocked from holding the country’s highest office because her two sons are not Myanmar citizens, nor was her late husband.

The NLD has no number two after Suu Kyi, who has said she will control the government from “above the president,” and rumors have swirled over who might fill the top post.

Myanmar’s lengthy transition process meant the NLD-dominated parliament sat for the first time on February 1.

On March 10, each of the two chambers will nominate its vice-presidential candidate, while the military MPs, who are guaranteed a quarter of the seats, nominate the third.

Once the candidates are in place, a joint-chamber session picks the president for a five-year term. The two losing candidates become vice-presidents. Candidates do not need to be elected members of the legislature.

The president then picks the cabinet, which will take over from President Thein Sein’s outgoing government on April 1.

It is unclear if the presidential vote will take place on the same day as the nominations are announced.

One analyst saw the advanced process as a sign that talks between the military and the NLD for its leader, Suu Kyi, to become president had made no headway.

“Setting the vote on the presidency so close to the deadline for the handover of power was part of the NLD’s pressure strategy,” said Romain Caillaud, of FTI Consulting in Singapore.

“That the vote has been moved forward is an acknowledgment this strategy has failed.”

Writing by Timothy Mclaughlin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez