Burma’s president, a close friend of leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has announced he will retire.
The move puts a representative of the country’s already powerful military at least temporarily in a position of executive power.
The announcement on the president’s Facebook page said 71-year-old Htin Kyaw wished to take a rest. It follows reports that he suffered ill health that forced him to travel abroad for medical care at least twice in the past year.
The statement said his post would be filled within seven working days, in line with the constitution.
He became president in March 2016 and was Burma’s first elected civilian president and head of its first government to be elected in free and fair polls since a 1962 military coup.
After he became president, Ms Suu Kyi became Burma’s de facto leader when she was named state councillor, a position created for the country’s once-leading voice for democracy since she is constitutionally banned from the presidency.
A clause in the charter bars anyone with a foreign spouse or child from holding the job; her two sons are British, as was her late husband.
By mutual agreement, Htin Kyaw in office acted as a proxy for Ms Suu Kyi, who is also foreign minister. Ms Suu Kyi had explained publicly – and to public approval – that she would be “above the president”.
Htin Kyaw was known more as a personal loyalist to Ms Suu Kyi rather than an active political member of her National League for Democracy party, though his wife is a daughter of one of the party’s founding members.
He spent time in jail for helping Ms Suu Kyi try to make an unsanctioned trip under a previous military government, and served as a director of a charitable foundation named after Ms Suu Kyi’s mother.
Burma has two vice presidents, and according to its constitution, 66-year old first vice president Myint Swe will serve as acting president. He was nominated for vice president by the military, which enjoys special privileges over the government.
When a vote is taken for a new president by both houses of parliament, the choice will be among Myint Swe, the other vice president, Henry Van Thio, who was elected by the upper house of parliament, and a third candidate to be put forward by the lower house, which had nominated Htin Kyaw.