Myanmar parliament elects military men as house speakers

Monday, January 31, 2011

NAYPYITAW - Myanmar’s new parliament Monday elected two military men as speakers of the upper and lower chambers in its first session since the Nov 7 general election.

Shwe Mann, the third most powerful general in the country’s junta, was voted speaker of the lower house while Khin Aung Myint, the current culture minister, was voted upper house speaker, sources said.

The two houses are dominated by the military through the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which won 77 percent of the contested seats, and 166 military-appointed legislators, who account for 25 percent of the votes.

Civilians were elected as vice speakers.

“On Tuesday, we will nominate three presidential candidates,” one legislator said. It is unclear when the parliament will vote on the president.

Journalists, except those working for state media, were barred from attending the parliamentary session.

The session was held amid tight security. Barricades were in place on roads leading to the massive 100-million-dollar parliament compound in Naypyitaw, 350 km north of Yangon.

Legislators were escorted to the site by plainclothes policemen.

Senior General Than Shwe, who has ruled Myanmar since 1992, who in past speeches vowed to steer the country towards “discipline-flourishing democracy”, is keeping true to his word.

The stage-managed November general elections were condemned by Western democracies for being neither free nor fair.

Military appointees make up 25 percent of lawmakers in the three chambers, giving the military bloc veto power over any future legislation.

Only the upper and lower houses meet in Naypyitaw this week. The regional and state parliaments will meet separately in their own capitals.

Than Shwe, who turns 78 Wednesday, although a possible candidate for the presidency, seems more likely to chose a protege for the powerful post and control him from “behind the curtain”, government sources said.

The likeliest candidate now is Thein Sein, the current prime minister, since Shwe Mann has been named lower house speaker.

“I think Than Shwe may feel that Thein Sein is more malleable than Shwe Mann,” said Win Min, a US-based Myanmar researcher. “He may also feel that Thein Sein may be more credible as president since Thein Sein’s family is much less corrupt than Shwe Mann’s family.”

The new president will select a cabinet, which is expected to be packed with USDP members and military appointees.

“It seems that Than Shwe will try to maintain the status quo,” Win Min said. “So, same wine in the old bottle, or just some name changes in the military dominated government, not a change in the government.”

Filed under: Politics

Tags: ,
will not be displayed