NLD MPs take their seats

Suu Kyi has to cope with a military veto on constitutional reform. Source: BBC

Aung San Suu Kyi has led her National League for Democracy (NLD) into Myanmar’s parliament, taking 80 per cent of contested seats and starting the process of installing a democratically elected government.

Suu Kyi won a parliamentary majority in 1990 before the election results were dismissed by the military leadership and was allowed to repeat the feat last November with a sweeping electoral success.

Hundreds of new NLD MPs, including many former political prisoners, took their seats in the lower house on Monday. The military reserves a quarter of parliamentary seats for its representatives who select one vice president and have the power to veto any attempt to change the constitution.

The most powerful ministries, home, defence and border affairs, are reserved for the armed forces, or Tatmadaw, ensuring that Suu Kyi will have limited influence over the running of the country.

Suu Kyi, flowers in her hair, used a side entrance to enter the parliament to avoid the media. The orange-clad NLD MPs outnumbered the military’s light green uniforms.

U Min Oo, an NLD MP from Bago, said: “It’s the second time I have been elected but this time it feels different, because the NLD is [in] majority. It’s an overwhelming majority, but we all come from different backgrounds and we can guarantee diversity.”

NLD MP, Khin Maung Myint, said: “I never imagined that our party would be able to form the government. Even the public didn’t think we could have an NLD government. But now it is like a shock to us and to the world too.”

Win Myint, a member of the NLD’s central executive, was sworn in as Speaker. But T Khun Myat, member of the outgoing ruling party, was also named deputy speaker in an attempt to establish a conciliatory tone with the military.

President Thein Sein, a former general who has overseen the reform process since 2011, will stand down in late March when the NLD will pick a president.

While Suu Kyi is barred by the vilified Section 59(F) of the army-drafted constitution from the presidency because her children have British nationality, can pick the president because of her overwhelming parliamentary majority.

She claims that she will rule “above the president” with the president acting as a mere proxy but there have been few details offered about how this would work.

EU ambassador to Myanmar Roland Kobia was postive: “Myanmar is step by step confirming its aspiration to a real democratic change and to a genuinely new political direction. A lot still needs to be done, but meaningful progress can happen through the commitment of the Myanmar people and political will of its leaders.”