Myanmar junta figure to chair election body

A top member of Myanmar's junta was appointed head of the country's new Election Commission on Thursday, a lawmaker said, as the military continued to consolidate its grip on power after widely condemned elections.

Tin Aye was a lieutenant general and the sixth-ranking member of Myanmar's junta until he retired from his military post to make a successful run for the lower house in November elections.

Tin Aye gave no reason for unexpectedly resigning his parliamentary seat on Wednesday, just three weeks after being sworn in.

The house speaker announced Thursday that Tin Aye would head the 7-member Union Election Commission, said Khin Shwe, an upper house lawmaker from the military-backed United Solidarity and Development Party.

"It was a pleasant surprise for all of us. We didn't realize that he resigned from the post to become chairman of the election commission," Khin Shwe added.

Myanmar held elections in November for the first time in 20 years. The polls were widely criticized as a sham to perpetuate the role of the military, which has ruled since 1962. The future role of the junta under the new government remains unclear, but there has been little attempt to introduce fresh faces into the government or top agencies.

The parliament, which is heavily stacked with the junta's allies, has named the former prime minister, Thein Sein, as the new president-elect and unanimously approved his 30 Cabinet nominees — all but four of whom are former military officers. It is not clear when the president and his Cabinet will be sworn in.

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's party, which won the last elections in 1990 but was blocked from taking power by the military, boycotted November's vote, calling it unfair. Much of the international community also dismissed the elections as rigged in favor of the junta.