11/17/2015, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Old parliament on its way out, too slowly for Aung San Suu Kyi

by Francis Khoo Thwe
Myanmar’s parliament met yesterday in Naypyidaw for the first time since last week’s election. Parliamentary speaker reminds his fellow lawmakers that they are on the way out, and that they should work for the people. Slow process of transition irks the new majority leader. Meanwhile, fighting continues in Kachin and Shan states.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – As vote counting continues to assign the last seats, the magnitude of the victory by the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, appears more and more like a rout. In fact, the gap between the hitherto ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and its erstwhile adversary is getting wider.

Myanmar’s outgoing parliament met yesterday with all eyes on Aung San Suu Kyi, the big winner in the 8 November general elections. Outgoing Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann urged lawmakers from the ruling party to play fair in the outgoing legislature's remaining debates, which might include a budget before the new opposition-led government takes over next year.

“The election is the result of our reform process and as we promised, we were able to hold it very successfully", said outgoing President Thein Sein. "We will hand this process (of reform) on to a new government".

As she gets ready to govern, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is keeping a low profile, avoiding too many statements. Mobbed by reporters, she was steadfast in refusing to make any comments on the transition to democracy, her negotiations with the military or, perhaps more importantly, who she intends to put forward as the next potential President of Myanmar.

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.

At the same time, due to a constitutional quirk, the recently defeated USDP will continue to dominate parliament until the NLD-led parliament convenes for the first time.

Suu Kyi has previously criticised the long handover process as "very silly". In the interim, negotiations will be taking place about who will become the country's President.

In the meantime, violence continues in regions with ethnic minorities, particularly Kachin and Shan states. Local armed groups report heavy shelling by government forces, especially in the days that followed the election.

The military have deployed helicopter gunships, fighter planes and heavy artillery against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), forcing hundreds of civilians to flee.

Local sources report that some families found refuge in local churches.

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