Myanmar's parliament to convene Jan 31

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 10, 2011 18:20 hrs

Yangon, Jan 10 (DPA) Myanmar's newly elected chambers of parliament are to hold their first session Jan 31 to begin the process of selecting a new president, state media said Monday.

Myanmar junta chief, Senior General Than Shwe, set 8.55 a.m. (0225 GMT) Jan 31 as the official launch time and date for the country's three houses of parliament - upper, lower and states/regions, Myanmar TV announced.

Military-ruled Myanmar staged its first general election in two decades Nov 7, in which the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won 77 percent of the contested seats.

The constitution stipulates that parliament must convene within 90 days of the polls.

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.

Than Shwe, 77 years old and junta chief since 1992, is a likely candidate, according to political observers.

'I'm sure Than Shwe will be nominated president and Maung Aye and Shwe Mann will become vice president,' said Aung Din, director of the US Campaign for Burma. 'This will be a Myanmar version of the Chinese Communist Party,' he said.

Generals Maung Aye and Shwe Mann are the second and third highest ranking military officers in the ruling junta. Besides being junta chief, Than Shwe is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

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, which is packed with ex-military men and government ministers.

Even without the USDP's electoral win, the next parliaments would not be free from military controls since the current constitution allows the army to appoint 25 percent of all legislators, enough for them to veto any legislation.

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 Nov 13, 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.

Myanmar has been under military dictatorships since 1962.