02/01/2016, 09.51
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Myanmar: New Parliament opens, first step towards democracy

Today the deputies elected from the Aung San Suu Kyi’s Democratic League take up their seats in the lower house and upper chamber. In late March, they will elect the new president of the country. "This is a day to be proud of in the political history of Myanmar." The transition from dictatorship to democracy begins.

Naypyataw (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The first democratic parliamentary session opened today in Myanmar led by the deputies of the Aung San Suu Kyi’s National Democratic League (NLD) who swept the elections last November.

After decades of military dictatorship, the Assembly voted by the citizens , have taken their seats.  They will now have to elect a new president, the highest office of the state, at the end of March. For most of the deputies appointed to the parliament, this is their first political experience.  Many of them are former democratic activists persecuted for years by the military junta.

On 8 novembre 2015,the NLD led by Su Kyi won 80% of the vote at the polls, defeating the army’s Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and thus obtaining the right to form the new government. However, under the Constitution, the junta keeps a quarter of the seats in parliament and three key ministries (Interior, Defense and Borders).

 Moreover, according to the 2008Constitution (in an ad hoc norm) Aung San Suu Kyi can not run for the office of President, for having married a British citizen. The leader, who spent 15 years under house arrest, however, has said that she will govern "above and beyond" the role of president, whom she will chose. The NLD will make public nominations for the presidency in the second week of February.

The Speakers of the upper house and lower chambers are also drawn from among the ranks of the NLD. "Today - said Win Myint, speaker of the lower house - is a day to be proud of in the political history of Myanmar, for its democratic transition." The transition from military to democratic rule ends on April 1, when the mandate of the current president and retired General Thein Sein will end.

Deemed free by observers who spoke to AsiaNews, the election saw the participation of about 80 per cent of the 30 million eligible voters. At present, the NLD has 390 seats (out of 440) in the lower house and 168 (out of 224) in the upper house, for a total of 558.

The party will thus govern until the next elections, scheduled for 2020, but it will not be able to amend the constitution because one quarter of all seats are assigned to military appointees. The Democratic League can not, however, amend the Constitution by itself, because it needs a majority of 75 % plus one vote.

Aung San Suu Kyi has so far kept a low profile, making no claims of victory but stating that elections were only the first step. In fact, there are many unresolved issues in Myanmar such as political prisoners, the arrest of students and activists and the military's influence on public life. Today the Lady sat on the sidelines in parliament, and listened to the first session without intervening.

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See also
Naypyidaw, the first sitting of Burma’s “sham” Parliament
Supreme Court rejects appeal, NLD still illegal
Aung San Suu Kyi’s first trip outside Rangoon since her release, threats from the junta
Burmese junta: Aung San Suu Kyi can vote
Junta sets the date for election-charade: November 7