Thein Sein, a military general-turned-civilian leader, was on Friday elected Myanmar's first President under its 2008 Constitution, which came into force earlier this week. His election was officially portrayed as a key step along the final lap of the military government's roadmap towards democracy.

Mr. Thein Sein (65) was chosen by the Presidential Electoral College in Myanmar's administrative capital of Nay Pyi Taw. The College was constituted on the basis of results of a controversial “democracy-restoring” general election, which was held in November last. New civilian representatives and the junta's military nominees formed the Electoral College.

Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), which was de-registered before the 2010 general election, did not participate in it.Still unsettled is the future role of the junta leader, Senior General Than Shwe. Regional observers expect him to call the political shots from behind the scenes.

As his loyalist lieutenant in the junta, Thein Sein shed his Army uniform to lead the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which was formed in time for the November poll. The USDP decisively won the general election, which was, however, denounced by the international community as a notional exercise in democracy stage-managed by the junta. NLD's octogenarian leader Tin Oo told The Hindu from Yangon that the day's political developments came as “no surprise” whatsoever. It was a “display” scripted entirely by the junta and its “proxies,” said Mr. Tin Oo.

Celebrated democracy campaigner Suu Kyi, who was freed from prolonged detention only after the 2010 general election, did not rush to disclose her strategy to meet Friday's turn of events.

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