Election winners and losers return to Myanmar Parliament

Chairperson of National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi (center) arrives for Myanmar's first Parliament meeting on Nov 16, 2015 after the general election.
Chairperson of National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi (center) arrives for Myanmar's first Parliament meeting on Nov 16, 2015 after the general election.PHOTO: AFP

NAYPYIDAW, MYANMAR (AFP) - Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Parliament on Monday (Nov 16), along with dozens of rivals freshly hammered by her pro-democracy party's landslide election victory as the legislature begins overseeing the country's delicate transition.

Ms Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from top political office but has vowed to rule "above" the next president, who she will select following her National League for Democracy's (NLD) formidable win in the Nov 8 polls.

The NLD bulldozed the current army-backed ruling party in polls set to dramatically reshape the country's political landscape.

But it will be the lawmakers from the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party - still smarting from their election drubbing - who will continue to dominate Parliament as the pre-election legislature returns for a final session that will last until at least the end of January.

Ms Suu Kyi was mobbed by dozens of journalists as she arrived at the Parliament on Monday, but declined to make any comment as she takes a low profile approach to victory.

She is banned from becoming president by the junta-era Constitution because she married and had children with a foreigner.

The Nobel laureate has nevertheless pledged to rule an NLD government through a puppet president, without revealing a candidate or setting out how the arrangement would work.

She has the power to select a president because of her party's parliamentary majority, with the candidate chosen in a vote of the new NLD-dominated legislature in February.

Observers predict a fevered period of political horsetrading, centred on the uncertainty over the presidency as the country creeps out of the shadow of the military.

NLD spokesman Win Htein told AFP that the party was acutely conscious that the size of its victory mirrors its success in 1990 elections, which were ignored by the then ruling generals who clung to power for another two decades.

"This time, although we are quite glad that we won, we worry that history may repeat itself. We don't think the transition will be 100 per cent perfect," he told AFP.

Ms Suu Kyi, 70, has sought to take a conciliatory approach following the elections, dampening victory celebrations and requesting talks with President Thein Sein, army chief Min Aung Hlaing and Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann - heavyweights from the former junta.

All three have accepted the invitation but only Mr Shwe Mann, whose eagerness to work with Ms Suu Kyi made him enemies among the military elite, has already set a date for his meeting - Thursday.

On Sunday, Mr Thein Sein, whose quasi-civilian government has opened the hermit nation to the world since taking power in 2011, said the elections were the result of his sweeping reforms and sought to reassure Myanmar's nervous populace that the handover of power would be smooth.

Myanmar's complex political system is the brainchild of the former junta, which has incrementally loosened its suffocating grip in recent years with stark changes, including releasing political prisoners and welcoming foreign investment.

The army, which retains a quarter of parliamentary seats and other political and economic privileges, has also pledged to support the transition.

Ms Suu Kyi has criticised the long handover process, calling the Constitution that proscribes it "very silly".

"This is quite incredible; nowhere else in the world is there such a gap between the end of the elections and the forming of the new administration and certainly it is something about which we should all be concerned," she told reporters ahead of the elections.