- Associated Press - Thursday, May 3, 2012

NAYPYITAW, MYANMAR — Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as a lawmaker Wednesday, capping a tenacious, decades-long journey from political prisoner to parliamentarian that will enable Myanmar’s main opposition party to take its struggle for democratic rule inside the country’s army-backed government for the first time.

The swearing-in ceremony in the capital, Naypyitaw, cements a fragile detente between Mrs. Suu Kyi’s movement and the administration of President Thein Sein, which has engineered sweeping reforms since taking power from a military junta last year.

But some analysts see her entry into the legislative branch as a gamble that will achieve little beyond legitimizing a regime that needs her support to end years of isolation from the West and get lingering sanctions lifted.

Mobbed by reporters after Wednesday’s ceremony, Mrs. Suu Kyi said she would not give up the struggle she has led since 1988.

“We would like our parliament to be in line with genuine democratic values. It’s not because we want to remove anybody,” she said in apparent reference to the military, whose unelected appointees control 25 percent of the assembly. “We just want to make the kind of improvements that will make our national assembly a truly democratic one.”

That will not be easy.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, 66, will have almost no power in the ruling-party dominated parliament since her party will occupy only the few dozen seats it won in an April 1 by-election. But she will have an official voice in government for the first time, and the chance - however faint - to challenge and influence public policy from within.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s legislative debut comes 24 years after it was prevented from taking power after a landslide electoral victory in 1990. Mrs. Suu Kyi was under house arrest at the time, and the army annulled the poll result, staying in power until last year.

When the latest session began last week, the NLD initially refused to join because of a dispute over the oath of office, sparking a political crisis that irked supporters at home and abroad who were eager for the party to finally enter the assembly.

The party wanted wording in the oath changed from “safeguard” to “respect” the constitution, which they have vowed to amend because it enshrines military power.

In a sudden turnaround, Mrs. Suu Kyi backed down Monday, averting a possible stalemate.

Reforms, but not reformed

But the party’s failure to push through even that small change underscores the immense challenges ahead in a nation still dominated by the military.

On Wednesday, Mrs. Suu Kyi and several dozen of her NLD brethren recited the oath, despite their strong opposition to it.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the occasion “an important moment” for Myanmar’s future, and praised Thein Sein’s administration for taking “strides toward democracy and national reconciliation.”

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