Election losers can still make laws in Myanmar for 2½ months

AP News
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Posted: Nov 16, 2015 6:05 AM
Election losers can still make laws in Myanmar for 2½ months

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) — The military-backed party overwhelmingly voted out of office in Myanmar's general elections still has another 2 ½ months to make laws as the majority — and retains enough potency to complicate matters if it chooses to do so.

The Parliament that began its new session Monday is still dominated by legislators from the Union Solidarity Development Party, which was trounced by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in the Nov. 8 elections.

The appearance of unfairness did not diminish the optimism of opposition party lawmakers.

"We have been through many difficult situations. It will not be too much of a headache for NLD," said Win Htein, an NLD member.

Over the next 2 ½ months, Parliament will mainly scrutinize additional budget requests by ministries, said Tin Maung, a USDP legislator. "There will be more discussion on draft laws that were discussed in the past, and maybe some laws will be passed," he said without giving details.

The session lasts until Jan. 31, when the new parliament will sit with roles reversed — the NLD will occupy 387 of the 664 seats in the two houses and the USDP will have only 42 seats, down from more than 360 it now holds.

The lame-duck session is unusual for a parliamentary democracy, where usually the legislature is dissolved before an election and convenes with the newly elected members. But Myanmar's government structure includes features of a presidential system.

Also, 166 seats are reserved for the military under an arrangement the former junta made before ceding power to the quasi-civilian USDP government in 2011 as part of a gradual transition to democracy after a half-century of military rule. The USDP is made up largely for former junta members.

After Jan. 31, the two largest parties in the upper and lower house — which is the NLD in both — and the military bloc will propose three candidates, one of whom will be elected president and the other two will become vice presidents. The president will then form a cabinet.

This system was most likely created in the belief that the USDP and the military combined would have a majority and could elect their candidate as the president. But the landslide NLD victory on Nov. 8 has in effect negated the military's guaranteed presence.

Still, NLD leader Suu Kyi cannot be elected president because of another clause in the constitution written by the military — anyone with a foreign spouse or children is ineligible. Suu Kyi's late husband and her two sons are British.