POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 10, 2011
YANGON, Myanmar >> Myanmar’s new parliament will hold its first session in 22 years on Jan. 31, state radio said Monday, an event the country’s military rulers hail as one of the final steps in its self-styled “roadmap to democracy.”
The new legislature was elected in polls last year decried as unfair by the opposition parties, including that of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was recently freed from house arrest.
The country’s 1,154 lawmakers will meet in a massive new building in the remote capital of Naypyitaw, the brief announcement said. It will be the first parliamentary session since a 1988 meeting in the old capital of Rangoon, which the junta renamed Yangon a year later.
The ruling junta’s military-backed party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, garnered nearly 80 percent of seats in the two-house Union Parliament in Nov. 7 polls, the country’s first in two decades.
Government opponents and outside observers have called the elections unfair and undemocratic, saying the results were manipulated to allow the military-backed party to win.
As was the case with the elections, there will be strict rules governing the decorum of lawmakers at parliament.
According to new laws announced in November, parliamentarians will be allowed freedom of expression unless their words endanger national security or the unity of the country. Any protest staged within parliament is punishable by up to two years in prison.
Anyone aside from lawmakers who enter the parliament while it is in session face a one-year prison term.
The election results assure that the military, which has ruled Myanmar since 1962, will continue to wield decisive power.
Holding the elections left just two steps to complete in the junta’s so-called “roadmap to democracy” — convening parliament and building a modern developed democratic nation with a Head of State elected by parliament.
The country’s last elections in 1990 were overwhelmingly won by the opposition party of Suu Kyi. The military refused to hand power and locked Suu Kyi away for most of the past 21 years, freeing her a week after the November elections. Her opposition party has been disbanded and has no presence in parliament.