Mon, Nov 16, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Burmese president touts reforms

TRANSITION:It is vital Aung San Suu Kyi builds healthy ties with the military, which has retained political and economic influence in Myanmar, observers said


Burmese President Thein Sein, center, makes a speech to representatives of political parties at the Yangon Regional Government Office in Yangon yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Burmese President Thein Sein yesterday said historic polls won in a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party were the consequence of his government’s reforms and vowed a smooth transition of power.

The former junta general, who shed his uniform to lead the country’s quasi-civilian regime five years ago, said the Nov. 8 polls were testament to the political and economic changes that have swept the former pariah state since the end of junta rule.

“The election is the result of our reform process and as we promised, we were able to hold it very successfully,” he told a meeting of political parties in Yangon, in his first public appearance since the polls.

“We will hand this process [of reform] on to a new government,” he said, adding “don’t worry about the transition” in comments aimed at calming nerves in the nation’s first attempt at a democratic-style transition for decades.

Addressing representatives of nearly 90 political parties, many of which were trounced by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), the Burmese leader said elections are the “duty” of a democratic nation.

He appeared sanguine about the resounding defeat of his army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which is set to slip into opposition in the next parliament with about 10 percent of the elected seats in the national parliament, compared with the NLD’s 80 percent.

“The winning party is responsible for carrying out its duty and other opposition parties should provide checks and balances. That is called democracy,” he said.

Thein Sein has steered the nation’s dramatic opening up after years of isolation, freeing political prisoners, unleashing a long-muzzled media and welcoming foreign investment.

Both the president and army chief Min Aung Hlaing have agreed to talks with Aung San Suu Kyi in the coming days as the nation’s political big-hitters look to negotiate a long transition which is set to see Thein Sein retain his position until March next year.

Observers said it is imperative that Aung San Suu Kyi build friendly ties with the military elite, which retains significant political and economic power.

Aung San Suu Kyi has already traveled to Naypyidaw, where today she is scheduled to attend a last session of the old parliament, which is to continue sitting as a caretaker legislature until January.

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