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Aung San Suu Kyi leads party into Myanmar parliament to claim power

Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at the opening of the new parliament in Naypyitaw as hundreds of MPs from her NLD will form Myanmar’s ruling party. Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

By Sara Perria &  Oliver Holmes
February 1, 2016

In a historic session, hundreds of National League for Democracy MPs, including Suu Kyi, sit as a majority for the first time in parliament

After half a century of military-dominated rule, Aung San Suu Kyi has led her National League for Democracy (NLD) party into Myanmar’s parliament, taking a majority of seats and starting the process of installing a democratically elected government.

Suu Kyi has waited more than 25 years for this moment, having won a parliamentary majority in 1990 that was annulled by the military leadership. In November last year, she led the NLD to another landslide victory that has been accepted by the outgoing army-aligned government.

Hundreds of NLD parliamentarians, many of them former political prisoners during successive military regimes, took their seats in the lower house on Monday morning. The party won 80% of all electable positions during a general election in November, with the military reserving a quarter of total seats.

The Nobel peace prize laureate, flowers in her hair, avoided hordes of reporters in the capital Nay Pyi Taw when she used a side entrance to enter the parliament. Her NLD lawmakers wore orange, overshadowing the military’s light green in the house.

Suu Kyi did not comment as she entered parliament.

U Min Oo, an NLD MP from Bago constituency, said the day felt very special.

“It’s the second time I have been elected but this time it feels different, because the NLD is majority. It’s an overwhelming majority, but we all come from different backgrounds and we can guarantee diversity.”

Win Myint, a close aide to Suu Kyi and NLD MP, was sworn in as house speaker. But T Khun Myat, member of the outgoing government USDP party, was also elected as deputy speaker in a sign of the political pragmatism the NLD leader has adopted in recent years.

President Thein Sein, a former general who implemented gradual reforms since 2011, will stand down in March or April when an NLD president takes over.

While Suu Kyi is barred by an army-drafted constitution from taking the country’s most powerful position, her overwhelming majority in both houses of parliament allows her to handpick the president from her loyalist circles.

Suu Kyi, who spent years under house arrest, has said the NLD victory places her “above the president”. She will likely announce her candidate, who will act as a proxy, later this month.

The military and its allies in government have repeatedly and publicly stated they will abide the results.

However, the most powerful ministerial positions – home, defence and border affairs – will be reserved for Myanmar’s armed forces, or Tatmadaw, giving the generals continued power in the south-east Asian nation.

Despite that, Roland Kobia, the EU ambassador to Myanmar, said the nation was on track to true democracy.

“Myanmar is step by step confirming its aspiration to a real democratic change and to a genuinely new political direction,” he said.

“A lot still needs to be done, but meaningful progress can happen through the commitment of the Myanmar people and political will of its leaders.”

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