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Renaud Egreteau -- How powerless are Myanmar's military legislators?

Military officers sign into the upper parliament for the swearing in of the new NLD-led government in Naypyidaw on March 30. (Photo by Steve Tickner)

When the National League for Democracy took control of Myanmar's national parliament after its electoral triumph last November, a fundamental rebalancing of Myanmar's legislative landscape was expected. Most observers thought that the military representatives, who hold an allocation of 25% of all parliamentary seats, would serve as the main opposition to the NLD, which controls about 58% of the Union parliament, as the bicameral legislature is known.

In a sense, military delegates do indeed form the chief opposition to the new ruling party. But they are also playing another role. Directly appointed by the commander-in-chief, the 166 military lawmakers in the Union parliament represent a solid, cohesive bloc, with significant legislative experience. About two thirds, or 107 serving officers currently sitting in the assembly, are in fact re-appointees who were already members of the previous legislature (2011-16). That includes 17 officers in the lower house, or Pyithu Hluttaw, and 11 in the upper house, or Amyotha Hluttaw, who have been sitting continuously for the past five years since their initial secondment in January 2011.

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