Myanmar fills military quota in parliament with 388 appointees

Friday, January 21, 2011

YANGON - Myanmar’s junta has appointed 388 legislators to fill the “military quota” of the three chambers of parliament, which will first convene on January 31, state media reports said Friday.

The junta has appointed 110 military officers for the lower house, 56 for the upper house, and 222 for regional and state parliaments, The New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

The appointees were all military men, including one brigadier general, 19 colonels, and the remainder being either majors or captains.

Under Myanmar’s new constitution, the military can appoint 25 percent of all legislators, enough for them to veto any legislation and to sway the selection of a new president and cabinet.

Myanmar, under military dictatorships since 1962, held its first general election in two decades on November 7. Parliament is to hold its first session on January 31 to begin the process of selecting a new president.

“I heard that parliament meetings will take at least 14 days and we will only know who will be the president around mid-February,” said a government official who requested anonymity.

Few surprises are expected from the first parliamentary session.

Besides the 25 per cent quota of military appointees, the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won 77 percent of the seats.

Parliament’s first task will be to set up an electoral college with representatives from the three chambers of parliament to nominate a new president.

The president does not need to be an elected member of parliament but must be familiar with military affairs, the constitution says.

According to political observers, Than Shwe, 77, junta chief since 1992 and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, is a likely candidate, as are Generals Maung Aye and Shwe Mann, the second and third-highest ranking officers in the ruling junta.

All three would have to resign their military posts to take political office.

The president will be responsible for choosing the next cabinet, primarily selected from the ranks of the USDP.

Myanmar’s elections were strongly criticized by the international community for being unfair and for excluding Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy opposition party.

Suu Kyi, 65, was freed from a seven-year house detention term six days after the polls.

The National League for Democracy won the 1990 general election by a landslide, but it was blocked from assuming power by the military.

The party was officially disbanded in May for failing to register to contest the polls.

Filed under: Politics

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