Election winners, and losers, return to Myanmar parliament

November 16, 2015 10:06 am


Aung San Suu Kyi accepts flowers from staff as she arrives for Myanmar's first parliament meeting after general elections, at the Lower House of Parliament in Naypyidaw on November 16, 2015/FILE
Aung San Suu Kyi accepts flowers from staff as she arrives for Myanmar’s first parliament meeting after general elections, at the Lower House of Parliament in Naypyidaw on November 16, 2015/FILE
Yangon, Myanmar, Nov 16 – Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy party returned to parliament Monday fresh from a landslide election victory but still cautious over the delicate power transition ahead.

Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from leading the country but has vowed to rule from “above” the next president, who she will select following her National League for Democracy’s win in the November 8 polls.

But with a months-long gap before the new NLD lawmakers take their seats, senior party figures are on guard for any signs of political trickery from a chastened military establishment.

“We don’t think the transition will be 100 percent perfect,” NLD spokesman Win Htein told AFP.

“This time, although we are quite glad that we won, we worry that history may repeat itself.”

His comments, ahead of the new parliamentary session, referred to another NLD landslide win in 1990, which was simply ignored by the then ruling generals.

They clung to power for another two decades, tightening the screw on dissenters.

Party leader 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.

The NLD bulldozed the current army-backed ruling party, taking nearly 80 percent of seats in the polls.

That result is set to dramatically reshape the political landscape of a country controlled for half a century by the army.

But the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, whose MPs also returned to parliament, will continue to dominate the legislature at a final session that will run until at least the end of January.

President Thein Sein, whose quasi-civilian government opened the hermit nation to the world since taking power in 2011, will also hold office until the new NLD-dominated parliament elects a replacement.

He has said elections were the result of sweeping reforms by his government, adding that the handover of power would be smooth.

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.

– Path to power –

Suu Kyi, 70, 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.

The candidate will be chosen by a vote of the new NLD-dominated legislature in February.

Suu Kyi has taken a conciliatory approach following the elections, requesting talks with Thein Sein, army chief Min Aung Hlaing and parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann — heavyweights from the former junta.

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

Shwe Mann was previously a hot tip as a potential compromise presidential candidate until he was ousted from the USDP leadership in August and then lost his constituency race in the elections.

His USDP successor Htay Oo, who also lost his seat to the NLD, said he bowed to the “decision of the people”.

“Winning and losing doesn’t matter,” he told reporters in Naypyidaw, pledging to work “for the interests of the people”.

Myanmar’s complex political system is the brainchild of the former junta, which has incrementally loosened its grip in recent years.

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

Suu Kyi has criticised the long handover process, calling the constitution that proscribes it “very silly”.


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