Yangon, Feb 3 (AP) Myanmar''s new parliament todayelected Thein Sein, prime minister in the outgoing militaryjunta, as one of three vice presidents, making him a likelycontender for president in the new military-dominatedgovernment.
The army has held power in Myanmar since 1962 and saysthe selection of the new government is the latest step in atransition to democracy, but critics call it a sham designedto cement military rule.
The army is essentially handpicking the new president,who is selected by parliament from the three vice presidents.
The military''s own delegates in parliament and their civilianallies hold an 80 per cent majority in the new legislature, sothe new leader is almost certain to be a top junta member.
Today the upper and lower house each selected a vicepresident from a pool of five candidates announced earlierthis week.
The most prominent among the five is Thein Sein, oneof the lower house''s candidates. A former general, he servedas the junta''s prime minister and also heads themilitary-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, whichwon a huge majority in November general elections.
Thein Sein received 276 out of 325 votes in today''sballoting, said Sai Hla Kyaw, a lower house lawmaker from theethnic Shan party.
Thein Sein''s seniority makes him the most likely tobecome president. But no matter who fills the post, longtimejunta chief Senior Gen Than Shwe is expected to remain adominant force in the country.
The upper house pick for vice president was Sai MaukKham, an ethnic Shan and doctor who runs a private clinic andis a member of the military-backed party, said Khin Shwe, anupper house lawmaker.
Sai Mauk Kham has not held prior political posts andis relatively unknown.
The inclusion of an ethnic minority member as a vicepresident is an important gesture because conflict with thecountry''s sizable ethnic groups which seek greater autonomyhas long posed a threat to national stability.
Military representatives in parliament are expected toname a third vice president by tomorrow. The military haspicked only one candidate for the post, Tin Aung Myint Oo, aretired top military figure who was also a senior juntamember.
One-quarter of the seats in each chamber are reservedfor military appointees.
There has been little popular interest in the openingof parliament, which occurred on January 31, due to thewidespread perception that the military cheated in the generalelections and has no true intention of paving the way fordemocracy.
The party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whichwon the last elections in 1990 but was blocked from takingpower by the military, boycotted the vote, calling it unfair.