FACTBOX - Myanmar's new political structure

Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:45pm IST

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REUTERS - Myanmar's new parliament convened for the first time on Monday and will begin choosing a civilian president, the country's first non-military ruler since the army seized power in the former British colony in 1962.

Below are details about the new political system, which still leaves the military in a dominant position.

MILITARY-DOMINATED PARLIAMENT

-- The junta's political vehicle, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), won the Nov. 7 election with a landslide. It won 76 percent of the total vote, 79 percent of lower house seats, 77 percent of senate seats and a 75 percent stake in the seven state and seven regional assemblies. The poll was marred by allegations of fraud and intimidation.

-- In addition, 25 percent of the seats in all legislative chambers are reserved for serving soldiers. A total of 166 young, educated, mid-ranking officers were notified over the past three weeks they had been chosen to be parliamentarians.

-- The military and the USDP, whose bloc of lawmakers is made up mostly of recently retired soldiers or junta cronies, will jointly control 83 percent of the national parliament. The biggest pro-democracy party, the National Democratic Force, has less than 2 percent, with just 12 seats.

RUBBER-STAMP SESSIONS?

-- Lawmakers' powers are limited and the passing of laws appears to be a formality. Constitutional amendments require the backing of more than 75 percent of parliament, meaning attempts to change a political system apparently devised to entrench army powers and sideline opponents will be futile.

-- The constitution, which has many contradictions, requires bills to be submitted to parliament for approval, but in a number of cases it also states that the bills are to be discussed "but not refused or curtailed".

-- Parliament cannot reject national budgetary bills. And it has "no right" to block any of the president's appointments, unless they are unconstitutional.

-- Parliamentary approval is necessary, however, for signing or revoking some international treaties and a declaration of war or peace.

PRESIDENTIAL "ELECTION"

-- The head of state of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, as the country will soon be called, will be a president nominated by parliamentarians, not by the public.

-- Presidential candidates must be civilians at least 45 years old and Myanmar citizens who have resided in the country for a continuous period of 20 years.

-- Three committees, known collectively as the Presidential Electoral College, will be formed from upper and lower house parliamentarians. One of the three groups will be made up entirely of military-appointed lawmakers.

-- Each committee will nominate one candidate for the presidency. Members of the Electoral College will then vote for one of the three to become president. The candidate with the most votes takes the top job and the unsuccessful candidates will become vice-presidents. All will serve five-year terms.

-- When a president takes office, the State Peace and Development Council, as the junta calls itself, will cease to exist.

EXECUTIVE POWERS

-- The president will appoint government ministers, the attorney general and chief justice. Parliament can only challenge the president's appointments if nominees are not deemed to be qualified. The criteria are broad and open to interpretation.

-- The president and his office are not answerable to parliament or judicial courts, provided he acts within the constitution.

-- The president will chair a new entity, the National Defence and Security Council, a powerful 11-member committee tasked with making key decisions. Analysts have drawn parallels between this and the politburos of North Korea and China.

-- The president can change the number of ministers and ministries at his discretion; appoint, transfer or dismiss diplomats; and approve or call for the removal of foreign diplomats. He can also call parliamentary sessions at any time.

-- The president has the power to grant pardons and amnesties, confer honorary titles, appoint and remove state officials, sign or revoke some international treaties and call a state of emergency, all without legislative approval.

MILITARY MIGHT

-- Myanmar's army rulers say the civilian system will reflect the will of the people, the "ultimate owners" of sovereign power. However, the constitution clearly states in the opening chapter that its aim is to enable the military "to participate in the national political leadership role of the state".

-- In addition to the 386 military personnel already appointed as lawmakers, the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Service will appoint three generals as ministers of defence, the interior and border affairs. The president can also select military officers to head other ministries.

-- Military personnel will occupy five of the 11 places on the National Defence and Security Council.

-- With presidential approval, the armed forces chief can assume sovereign power and declare a state of emergency, with full legislative, executive and judicial power.

-- Armed forces members serving in government, parliamentary or civil service roles accused of a crime will be tried by a military court martial rather than a judicial court.

(Compiled by Martin Petty; Editing by Alan Raybould and Andrew Marshall)

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