Naypyitaw, Myanmar: Hundreds of newly elected legislators, a majority of them from pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party, have begun a parliament session that will instal their government and elect a new president.
The session on Monday marks a historic turnaround for the National League for Democracy party, which for years was suppressed by the military. The party won 80 percent of the elected seats in general elections in November, qualifying it to form a government.
The Southeast Asian nation started moving from a half-century of dictatorship toward democracy in 2011, when military rulers inexplicably agreed to hand over power to a nominally civilian government headed by President Thein Sein, a general turned reformist. He will stand down in late March or early April when an NLD president will take over.
The pro-democracy party in Myanmar led by Suu Kyi announced ethnically diverse choices on Thursday for leadership of the legislature as it prepares to take over the government from a military-backed party after parliament convenes Monday.
National League for Democracy executive Win Thein told reporters that it will nominate a member of the Burman ethnic majority, Win Myint, for lower house speaker and an ethnic Kachin, Ti Khun Myat, for his deputy. It will propose a Karen, Win Khaing Than, for speaker of the upper house, and an Arakanese, Aye Thar Aung, for his deputy.
In what is seen as another gesture toward unity and reconciliation, the proposed deputies come from other parties. Ti Khun Myat is a member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the outgoing ruling party, and Aye Thar Aung is from the Arakan National Party, one of the better-performing ethnic parties in the election representing a politically volatile area.
Ethnic conflict has bedeviled Myanmar for decades, with minority groups fielding guerrilla armies in a bid for greater autonomy.
Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from taking the presidency, and has vowed to rule from behind the scenes through a proxy. She has not announced who her party will nominate for president.
Despite its landslide victory, the NLD in practice will have to share power with the military, for which the constitution reserves 25 percent of the seats in parliament. Suu Kyi has met with senior military leaders to try to ensure a smooth change of government, and they have vowed not to interfere.
The NLD easily won last November's general election, allowing it to unseat the USDP and replace President Thein Sein, who on Thursday gave what is likely to be his last speech in parliament, reviewing his government's accomplishments. Thein Sein, a former army general, led a transitional administration after almost a half century of military rule.
The USDP won a 2010 election in which the NLD refused to participate, protesting that it was held under unfair conditions. After several changes in the election law, the NLD contested several dozen by-elections in 2012, winning virtually all of them.