Suu Kyi's party takes seats in Parliament

Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (front) leaves after attending the first day of a new parliament session in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Feb 1, 2016.
Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (front) leaves after attending the first day of a new parliament session in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Feb 1, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

NAYPYITAW • Myanmar entered a new political era as Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy MPs took their seats in Parliament, carrying the hopes of a nation subjugated for decades by the military.

Wearing orange uniforms, lawmakers from Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) arrived for their first day of work yesterday in the capital Naypyitaw, buoyed by a massive popular mandate from last November's election.

That election saw the NLD wrest a majority from the army establishment and has spurred hopes of a new political dawn in the long repressed nation.

Ms Suu Kyi, the iconic leader of Myanmar's struggle for democracy, entered the Parliament building without making a comment.

She took a seat alone for the short opening session which saw the lawmakers sworn in and the appointment of close ally Win Myint as Lower House Speaker. "Today is a day to be proud of in Myanmar's political history and for the democratic transition," Mr Win Myint said in an acceptance speech.

This week, the NLD will focus on appointing parliamentary speakers, who were announced last week. It will also prepare for the start of state and regional assemblies next Monday, some in places dominated by large ethnic minorities such as Shan state or Rakhine.

Ms Suu Kyi has vowed to sidestep this hurdle by ruling "above" a proxy president, although she has yet to reveal her choice for the role.

The new government faces a daunting rebuilding task in one of South-east Asia's poorest countries.

Many NLD MPs are also political novices, unskilled in the business of government. They will also have to adapt to a legislature where unelected soldiers occupy 25 per cent of all seats.

"It's a historic moment for the country," said Myanmar political analyst Khin Zaw Win said, adding that "a lot of worries come as part of the package" of taking power.

Ms Suu Kyi, 70, is barred from becoming president by a military-scripted Constitution because she married and had children with a foreigner.

She has vowed to sidestep this hurdle by ruling "above" a proxy president, although she has yet to reveal her choice for the role.

Elected members of both Houses and the military will nominate three candidates to succeed President Thein Sein, who retains his post until the end of next month.

They will then vote on the three candidates. The winner will become president, with the other two serving as vice-presidents.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'Suu Kyi's party takes seats in Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe