Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, takes a giant step forward in its process of democratization as the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and other party members enter parliament.
In the end, it was not only the many foreign visitors in the country of late, but also the supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi's own party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) who ended up pressing her to take the oath of office. And they hope that she will be able to fulfill her mission in parliament.
Aung San Suu Kyi, frequently referred to as "The Lady," and the NLD's other 42 newly-elected members of parliament have sworn an oath on the constitution and taken office in parliament in the capital of Naypidaw. With the oath, they swear to safeguard the constitution, which was created in 2008 by the junta. It is a constitution that the opposition greatly criticized in the election in the run-up to the April 1 poll for granting too many rights to the military, i.e. a mandate to allocate one fourth of parliamentary seats to the military.
Praise for 'The Lady'
The opposition, lead by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, had refused to swear the oath for a week, thus causing the first (democratic) political crisis in the country that is seeing rapid and radical change. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon visited Suu Kyi yesterday in her home and praised her for her decision to enter office despite the oath.
"Politicians some times will continue to have differences or some issues. But real leader demonstrates flexibility for the greater cause of the people. And this is what she has done," Ban said.
Flexibility was nothing new to the NLD, said Suu Kyi: "We have always believed in being flexible throughout the years of our struggle. Because that is the only way in which we can achieve our goal without violence. So I do not think flexibility is going to be a new concept for us, not newly acquired because we are going into the national assembly. It has been part of the political equipment with which we have been working for the last 23 odd years."
'No turning back'
With members of the opposition entering parliament and the lifting of EU sanctions at the beginning of last week, now what people have been hoping and waiting for can finally begin - democratization and economic growth - a process, which "may be difficult," said Ban.
"There are still many challenges. But this process should be irreversible. There's no turning back."
Over the weekend, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton pledged 150 million euros in aid to help the development of the country's democratization. Aung San Suu Kyi said the money must be for the people.
"Whatever aid comes to Burma, whatever development aid or humanitarian aid," said Suu Kyi, "it should come in such a way that it empowers the people and decreases their dependency on the government. That is the only way in which we can ensure that the democratic process in Burma will go along the right path."
Onlookers have hope that the new addition to Myanmar's parliament - a popular yet not so powerful opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi - is a surefire sign that the country's democratic reform is on the right track. But it remains to be seen just how much influence "The Lady" will be able to have on politics.
Author: Udo Schmidt / sb
Editor: Shamil Shams