NAY PYI TAW: The first session of Myanmar’s newly elected parliament opened on Monday (Feb 1).
For the first time in more than 50 years, parliamentarians will comprise mainly democratically elected representatives who won their seats in a watershed November 2015 general election.
Eighty per cent of elected seats in the new parliament will be made up of MPs from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
The NLD won the November elections by a landslide, capturing 390 national parliamentary seats out of 664. The country’s Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which had previously controlled the parliament, only won 42 seats. Under the constitution, army-appointed representatives hold 25 per cent of the seats in parliament.
"We will work to get human rights and democracy as well as peace," NLD MP Nyein Thit told AFP as he arrived at the cavernous parliament building.
But many of the NLD's lawmakers are political novices, and the inexperienced new government faces a daunting rebuilding task in a country where the economy has been crushed by generations of junta rule.
"It's a historic moment for the country," said Myanmar political analyst Khin Zaw Win of the new parliament. "This is what we have tried to do, tried to achieve and fight for all these years, but when the moment really comes a lot of worries come as part of the package," he said, adding that Aung San Suu Kyi and her colleagues would have to learn fast on the job.
New parliamentarians told Channel NewsAsia they were “excited, a little tense and nervous”, but were “hoping for a change” as they took their seats in the assembly hall.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the figurehead of Myanmar's struggle for democracy, entered the cavernous parliament building without making a comment. She took a seat alone for the short opening session which saw the lawmakers sworn in and the appointment of a close ally, Win Myint, as lower house speaker.
"Today is a day to be proud of in Myanmar's political history and for the democratic transition," Win Myint said in an acceptance speech.
Each of the parliament's two chambers will appoint one presidential candidate and the military officials who hold a quarter of all seats will also put forward one candidate. The combined chambers will then vote on the three candidates. The winner will become President. The other two will serve as vice presidents.
Expectations are towering for Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest after the NLD swept to power in 1990 but was barred from taking office, and is regarded with an almost religious-like zeal by people in the Southeast Asian nation.
Myanmar's 51.5 million people expect the NLD to quickly fix everything from bringing peace to fractured ethnic states to stopping the abuse of the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine by the Buddhist majority.
But under the 2008 constitution, Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president because her children are not Myanmar citizens. She has given no indication as to who will take over from outgoing President Thein Sein and the NLD has no clear number two.
Aung San Suu Kyi has said she will be "above the president", and in complete control of the government, but the NLD has not explained how she will do this.