For the first time in decades, a freely elected parliament took its seats in Myanmar on Monday, with the party of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi preparing to run the country. The change comes after years of strife — and a weekend of celebration.
That celebration included both incoming and outgoing officials, who sang and danced onstage at a huge party — an uplifting end to an era of military junta rule that had forced Suu Kyi into years of living under house arrest.
NPR’s Anthony Kuhn reports:
“Lawmakers from Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, were sworn in the cavernous parliament building in the capital, Naypitaw.
“Myanmar’s military-drafted constitution bars Suu Kyi from being president, so she has said she’ll select a proxy from her party for the job. Suu Kyi has not revealed who she’ll choose, but that person will take office after the current president stands down next month.”
The constitution includes a clause stating that anyone whose children are foreign citizens is barred from being president; Suu Kyi’s children were born in Britain and hold British passports.
Myanmar’s military still controls a quarter of the seats in parliament — another provision in the constitution. But Suu Kyi’s party won 80 percent of the seats up for grabs in November’s historic election.
Myanmar’s opposition party has won before, but that was in 1990, when the country’s military refused to relinquish power, a decision that brought broad criticisms and economic sanctions.
So far, the transition of power has been smooth.
With his five-year term set to elapse next month, President U Thein Sein called on members of the existing government to work with the incoming lawmakers to smooth the transition. And he said that his goal has been to restore peace and tranquility before last year’s democratic vote.
“We have never thought of which party will win the 2015 election,” he said. [The country’s prosperity] is, in fact, a broader and higher objective, regardless of having hope for a second term for me or for my party. This is a national objective, much nobler than individual or group interest. This objective is important to strengthen democracy in Myanmar.”