Myanmar: First democratically elected government since 1962

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party has enough seats to form administration after landslide win

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi holds talks with President Thein Sein. Video: Reuters

 

Myanmar will form its first democratically elected government since the military junta took power in 1962 when opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi oversees the first sitting of a parliament dominated by her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Ms Suu Kyi’s party has enough seats to form a majority in the southeast Asian nation (formerly Burma). Because of the terms of the constitution, however, the NLD will share power with the military and the Nobel Prize winner will not be allowed to assume the presidency.

This means a delicate balancing act for Ms Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest after the NLD won the polls in 1990 and is revered as “The Lady” among the people.

There is a palpable sense of anticipation about the transition of power here in Yangon (formerly Rangoon). Many people still keep their ink-blackened little fingers, which they used to cast their vote in November’s historic polls, as a badge of honour and a sign of pride in Myanmar’s rapid development.

Ms Suu Kyi has indicated that she will direct the president appointed, as she is barred from the presidency under the 2008 constitution drafted by the army because her children are not Myanmar citizens.

What she is proposing is effectively using a puppet president to carry out her bidding, basing her mandate on massive public support in Burma. So far she has given no sign as to who will take over, and the NLD has no clear deputy who would fit the bill.

In control

The sitting of the parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s capital, is the latest stage in the protracted transition from military rule. The new government’s official term begins in April.

The first order of business will be to appoint speakers and lay the groundwork for state and regional assemblies, some of them sites of ethnic unrest, including Shan State in the east and Rakhine in the west.

Expectations are high among Myanmar’s 51.5 million people that Ms Suu Kyi will be able to resolve the country’s myriad problems, including bringing peace to the war-torn ethnic states and also stopping attacks by the Buddhist majority on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine .

“They [people] hope that every problem will be solved automatically after the NLD becomes the government, foreign direct investment will come in,” said Shwe Mann, the outgoing speaker of parliament.

The military-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, which is led by retired soldiers, has conceded defeat. Still, the NLD needs the support of the military if it is to effectively govern.

Three key ministries – home affairs, defence and border affairs – are also chosen by the military’s commander-in-chief.

Foreign investment

Global New Light of Myanmar

NLD officials say a president’s name will be announced in the second week of February.

While Ms Suu Kyi won the election by a landslide, there are other concerns. Even if she does manage to govern by proxy, the election itself has shown some of the divisions that remain in the country.

As well as the clause in the constitution barring Ms Suu Kyi from the presidency, the military is guaranteed 25 per cent of seats in parliament. It also controls the appointment of key ministers.

About a fifth of voters were not allowed to vote in the elections, including about a million Rohingya Muslims and displaced people in Burma’s ethnic areas. Muslim candidates were also disqualified.

– (Additional reporting by Reuters)

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