Myanmar set for historic new parliament

Myanmar's National League for Democracy (NLD) chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi (C) arrives for the new lower house parliamentary session in Naypyidaw on 1 February 2016Image copyright
AFP/Getty Images

Image caption

Ms Suu Kyi’s NLD party dominates the majority of elected seats in parliament

Hundreds of MPs have begun a parliamentary session in Myanmar to see in the first democratically elected government in more than 50 years.

It is an assembly dominated by MPs from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which won 80% of contested seats in November’s poll.

But a quarter of all seats are reserved for the military, which also retains control of key ministries.

One of the new parliament’s first jobs will be to choose a new president.

Media captionDrone footage shows new Myanmar parliament building

Outgoing leader Thein Sein steps down at the end of March, but Ms Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest, is constitutionally barred from standing because her sons are British not Burmese.

She has previously indicated, however, that she will seek to exert influence through the new leader.

November’s polls were the first openly contested national elections in 25 years in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

At the scene: Jonah Fisher, BBC News, Nay Pyi Taw

For most of the last 20 years Aung San Suu Kyi’s party the National League for Democracy has been treated as the enemy here – its activities suppressed and its leaders jailed.

Now hundreds of them are being sworn in as MPs. Even when the 25% of army-appointed representatives are included the NLD still have a majority.

The identity of the country’s next President is still a closely guarded secret.

Media captionWatch: BBC’s Jonah Fisher catches Myanmar’s MPs on their way in to parliament

For it to be Ms Suu Kyi there would have to be an incredible last minute deal and constitutional change. Most likely it will be one of her most trusted confidantes possibly her doctor.

The new parliament will also be choosing its new chairman, as well as the speakers and deputy speakers of both the lower and upper houses.

Last week Ms Suu Kyi confirmed her party will choose Win Myint as speaker of the lower house and Win Khaing Than, as the upper house speaker.

“We will work to get human rights and democracy as well as peace,” NLD MP Nyein Thit told AFP news agency as he arrived at parliament. Ms Suu Kyi did not speak to reporters as she entered the building.

Image copyright
AFP/Getty Images

Image caption

The military still retains control of several key ministries

The transition from military-only rule will go on until the NLD government officially starts its term in April. The army overthrew the last democratically-elected parliament in 1962.

Despite the NLD’s landslide last November the military still retains significant control. While it still has 25% of seats in parliament under the constitution, it also retains control of the important home affairs, border affairs and defence ministries.

Read more on Myanmar’s transition

Media captionFriday marked the end of the outgoing Myanmar parliamentary term and it was celebrated with a party

comments powered by Disqus