At least 20 Christians were among the hundreds of new lawmakers who took their seats in Myanmar's lower house on Feb. 1, another step in the country's drawn out transition to democracy. Lama Naw Aung, a Catholic and lower house MP from the Kachin State Democracy Party, described the day as "historic." "The ethnic parties, have a small number of seats in parliament but we have great hope that Aung San Suu Kyi
-led NLD lawmakers will cooperate with us and listen to the voices of ethnic people who long for self-determination and equality," Naw Aung told ucanews.com. People have high expectations, he added. Nobel laureate Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won 390 of the 664 seats in the upper and lower houses during the Nov. 8 elections. The military has 25 percent of the seats and will retain control of home, border and defense ministries. Smaller ethnic parties have collectively won 57 seats.
With more than 100 ethnic groups, Myanmar is one of the most diverse nations in the world. Since independence from Britain in 1948, some ethnic groups
have conducted long-standing rebellions against the national government. The impoverished country was internationally isolated during its often oppressive military junta rule from 1962 till 2011. Shay Ray Shu Maung, a Catholic and upper house MP for the NLD party in Kayah State, said that the new government needs to put in a lot of effort to advance the country. "We need to work hard for the ethnic people, especially with regard to their rights and development," said Shu Maung. "The minority ethnic areas have been neglected for decades." Gint Kam Lian, a Christian and upper house MP from Zomi Congress for Democracy, said that he would collaborate with NLD lawmakers but that it still would not be easy because of the military's presence in parliament. "We have high hopes for Suu Kyi working for the country but we will face a big hurdle in constitutional matters because of the 25 percent unelected military MPs," said Gint Kam Lian. NLD's majority ensures that it will choose Myanmar's next president
in March. However, the 2008 military-written constitution bans Suu Kyi becoming president because she married a foreigner and her children are not Myanmar citizens. The 70-year-old leader reportedly said she would sidestep this issue by ruling "above" a proxy president. The party has yet to reveal whom they are to nominate as president.
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