USDP takes top spots in Rangoon parliament

The leadership of the key Rangoon regional parliament has been awarded to representatives of the junta-backed election winners, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Taking the position of chairman is Maung Maung Win, who was elected yesterday after only a one-hour session. It is the first time parliament has met in Burma for more than 20 years.

The former army colonel will be joined by newly-elected speaker, Sein Tin Win, also a retired military man, and vice-speaker is Tin Aung, chairman of the Rangoon wing of the Government Cooperatives Association.

They are all members of the USDP, which won around 80 percent of seats in the 7 November 2010 vote and, with the likely backing of pre-appointed military officials, looks set to dominate parliament.

U Kyaw, a regional parliamentary representative of the opposition National Democratic Force (NDF), which won 16 seats in the elections, said that the USDP’s dominance of the decision-making process meant its leadership was inevitable.

Of the 123 election-winning representatives in the Rangoon parliament, 75 are USDP members, 31 are pre-appointed military officials, and 17 from other parties. Rangoon’s is one of 15 regional parliaments around the country which were formed in lieu of elections last year for the first time in Burma’s history.

Yesterday’s Rangoon session was held in tandem with the opening of the Union Parliament in Naypyidaw, which is comprised of the lower house, or People’s Parliament, and the upper house, or Nationalities Parliament. The junta’s former third-in-command, Shwe Mann, will be speaker of the lower house, while his counterpart in the upper house is current culture minister, Khin Aung Myint.

Critics claims that the chances of any major shift in Burma’s political landscape is unlikely, given the dominance of the military and its proxy party in parliament. NDF representative for the Rangoon legislature, San San Myint, said that however that if pro-junta forces “propose something positive for the people, then we will support their proposition; otherwise we will contest it”.

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