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Myanmar Begins New Era as Full-fledged Democracy

  • VOA News

Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of National League for Democracy (NLD), center, arrives to participate in the inauguration session of lower house parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Feb. 1, 2016.

Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of National League for Democracy (NLD), center, arrives to participate in the inauguration session of lower house parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Feb. 1, 2016.

Myanmar began a new chapter in its history Monday as its democratically elected parliament convened its first session, formally ending over a half-century of iron-fisted military rule.

Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi led newly elected lawmakers from her National League for Democracy party into the parliamentary chambers in the capital, Naypyitaw, still basking in the glow of victory from last November's election.

The NLD trounced the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party by winning 80 percent of the elected seats in both houses of parliament.

1990 elections

The session also brings to reality a moment delayed since 1990 when the military denied the NLD to take power after the party won the last democratically held elections in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.

The new parliament is scheduled to elect a new speaker and deputy speaker during Monday's opening session.

Win Mynt, a close associate of Aung San Suu Kyi, is expected to be elected to the top post, while T Khun Myat, a member of the defeated Union Solidarity Party, will be named as deputy speaker.

The lawmakers will also elect a new president to succeed Thein Sein, a former general who imposed a number of democratic reforms as leader of the quasi-civilian government that took power from the long-ruling military junta in 2011.

Banned from presidency

Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally banned from serving in the post because her sons are British, as was her late husband. But she has vowed to rule through a figurehead president.

The Nobel Peace laureate also said she will include in the new Cabinet at least one member of the military-linked USDP, as well as members from ethnic minorities who have complained of being sidelined from power.

The NLD will propose a member of the minority ethnic Karen for speaker of the upper house, and an Arakanese for his deputy.

Despite its huge majority in the legislature, the ruling NLD will have to forge a working relationship with the military, which automatically controls 25 percent of all parliamentary seats under the 2008 constitution and maintains control of several key government posts, including defense, interior and border security.

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