Myanmar: historic scenes in national parliament

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By Euronews  with Reuters, AFP
Myanmar: historic scenes in national parliament
  • Myanmar transitions to democracy
  • The first democratically-elected government for 50 years
  • Military retain control of key ministries

The news

Hundreds of deputies are voting in Myanmar’s first democratically-elected government for more than 50 years.

The majority of those gathered are from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which won 80% of the seats in the election in November.

However, a quarter of seats are reserved for representatives of the military, which also controls key ministries in the government.

The last democratically-elected government was overthrown by the army in 1962.

Transition in Myanmar

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

Outgoing head of state Thein Sein steps down at the end of March.

Htin Kyaw is tipped by many to be the new leader.

Suu Kyi is prohibited from standing for the role as her two sons are British nationals and not Burmese.

April will be another key date.

The NLD government will officially take office from that month and total military rule will effectively be ended.

Military influence

Myanmar’s military still retains significant control, despite the NLD landslide in November’s election.

Home affairs, border affairs and defence will continue to be overseen by military officials.

Decades of struggle

Myanmar started moving from half a century of military rule towards democracy in 2011.

Military rulers unexpectedly agreed to hand over power to a nominally-civilian government led by general-turned-reformer Thein Sein.

The military government had called an election once before in 1990, and Suu Kyi’s party won a convincing victory.

However, the vote was annulled and the NLD says many of its leading members were harassed and jailed.

Suu Kyi was put under house arrest prior to the 1990 vote. She famously spent 15 of the next 22 years confined to her villa in Yangon.

The daughter of the legendary liberation movement leader Aung San, she was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1991.

Commentators say expectations are high in Myanmar.

The 51.5 million population expect a lot from the NLD, from bringing peace to fractured ethnic states to stopping the abuse of Rohingya Muslims by the Buddhist majority in Rakhine.

What they are saying

“It feels like a dream, no one believed the NLD would form a government, even us. It has shaken Myanmar and the whole world.”Khin Maung Myint, deputy

“We are likely to announce the president in the second week of February.”Win Htein, senior party member

“The people hope that every problem will be solved automatically after the NLD becomes the goverment and FDI (foreign direct investment) will come in.”Shwe Mann, outgoing speaker of parliament