The newly elected speaker of the lower house of Myanmar’s National Assembly was sworn in on the first day of the body’s new session on Monday, as pro-democracy lawmakers led by the National League for Democracy (NLD) took up their seats.
The NLD won roughly 80 percent of elected seats in parliament in elections last November, defeating the ruling, quasi-civilian Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) under President Thein Sein.
“Today is a day to be proud of Myanmar’s political history and for the democratic transition,” said Win Myint, after he was sworn into the powerful speaker’s position at the start of the assembly. “Today’s second parliamentary session has emerged from the people’s desire for change manifested through the elections.”
“Members elected to this chamber are the representatives mandated by citizens who have been yearning for democracy, human rights, and the development of the country,” he told representatives in the Pyithu Hluttaw, or lower house.
Win Myint, an NLD politician, urged new members of parliament (MPs) to behave as the people’s representatives based on democratic values, human rights standards, and international norms.
Ti Khun Myat, an ethnic Kachin national MP from the USDP, was sworn in as vice speaker of the lower house.
Among the 433 MPs elected to the lower house, four were absent at Monday’s opening session, including Sai Mauk Khan and Nyan Tun, the country’s two current vice presidents from the USDP.
In the new lower house, the NLD holds 255 seats, military officers 110 seats, the USDP 30 seats, Arakan National Party 12 seats, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy party 12 seats, and other minority parties 11 seats. An independent MP also holds one seat.
International ambassadors said they were optimistic about the new parliament’s first meeting dominated by Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party.
“It’s a very important day for Myanmar,” said Roland Kobia, the European Union’s ambassador to Myanmar. “This new parliament is a democratically elected one, and in order to show our support, I am attending this swearing-in ceremony. We will arrange to hold discussions between new Myanmar MPs and European MPs. We want an active parliamentary system in Myanmar.”
Andrew Patrick, the British ambassador, said members of Myanmar’s parliament have been working with lawmakers from Britain’s parliament and a number of other parliaments in specific areas.
“We have experts here helping with research and library management,” he said. “We will continue helping the new government as we did the old one to develop the ministries.”
The U.S. embassy in Yangon issued a statement congratulating Myanmar’s new parliament on its Facebook page.
“Today, we congratulate the newly elected parliamentarians on their first day in office and wish them well as they take on the difficult but urgent task of advancing peace, prosperity, justice, and reform in this country,” the statement said.
Shwe Mann, former speaker of the lower house, said the successful holding of the new session of parliament and election of a new speaker and vice speaker had boosted the nation’s pride.
“I expect the new house members to implement democracy, human rights, and a federal union,” he told reporters after attending the lawmakers’ session as a guest. “I also urge the people of the country and the media to cooperate in order to help them achieve this.”
After the session, Shwe Mann transferred his speaker’s office to Win Myint, who was accompanied by NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi, former vice speaker Nanda Kyaw Swa, and Ti Khun Myat.
Lawmakers must now select a speaker and vice speaker of the Amyotha Hluttaw, the 224-seat upper house of parliament, and vote for a president to succeed Thein Sein, who initiated political and economic reforms when he took office five years ago.
Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency because of a clause in the current constitution that bars those with foreign spouses or children from seeking the office.
Instead, she has said she will be “above the president,” who will likely be another NLD politician, although she has yet to disclose her choice for the position.
MPs in both houses of parliament will nominate and vote for three candidates to replace Thein Sein, who will remain president until the end of March.
Tin Oo, an NLD patron who also attended the ceremony as a guest, told RFA's Myanmar Service that the constitutional provision barring Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president could be amended within a year.
Reported by Myo Thant Khine, Win Ko Lwin, Win Naung Toe, and Thiha Tun. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.