Myanmar: New era as parliament holds historic session

Politicians from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party take their seats in parliament for the first time after decades of army rule.

Myanmar’s newly elected politicians, most of them from pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, have taken their seats in parliament for the first time, in a landmark session that was meant to install the first democratically chosen government in half a century.

The session on Monday marked a historic turnaround for the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which was suppressed by the country’s army for years. 

The party won 80 percent of the elected seats in general elections in November, qualifying it to form a government and end nearly 50 years of military rule. 

READ MORE: Myanmar’s Suu Kyi wins landmark election

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, said there is a real sense of historic change in the country. 

“It is known here as a democracy on a leash. The military still retains a huge amount of power here but, with that said, the NLD, with their victory do get to choose the next government and they get to formulate government policy as well,” he said.

“However, the danger for the NLD is that they are now seen as the cure of all the problems that have exisited here through decades of alleged mismanagement by the military … so there is real sense of expectation that they will sort all the problems.”

Myanmar MPs gather for new parliamentary session

One of the NLD’s central campaign promises was to reform the constitution to curtail the power of the military. This may prove difficult as military appointees still hold a quarter of the seats in each house of parliament, enough to block any changes. 

First decision

The lower house of parliament elected NLD party member Win Myint to the powerful post of speaker. 

Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from taking the presidency, and has vowed to rule from behind the scenes through a proxy.

The Southeast Asian nation started moving from a half-century of dictatorship towards democracy in 2011, when military rulers agreed to hand over power to a nominally civilian government headed by President Thein Sein, a general turned reformist.

He will stand down in late March or early April when an NLD president will take over.

Source: News Agencies