Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met privately on Monday with ousted ruling party chairman Shwe Mann only days after he was dismissed by President Thein Sein, an NLD lawmaker said, but could provide no details about what they discussed.
The two politicians met for more than an hour in Naypyidaw at the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, said NLD lawmaker Win Htein.
Last Thursday, Thein Sein forced out his main rival Shwe Mann and his allies to consolidate his power in the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) three months before national elections are held on Nov. 8.
The two had been at odds because Shwe Mann backed Aung San Suu Kyi’s call for a constitutional amendment that would have limited the power of military lawmakers.
The Union party, which is mainly made up of former military officers, said Shwe Mann was removed from his position as “acting” chairman of the ruling party because he was “too busy” with his other role as the country’s influential parliamentary speaker.
Thein Sein had been appointed chairman in Shwe Mann’s place, but new vice chair Htay Oo, a military major general in the lower house of parliament, has assumed the duties because of restrictions on the president’s role in party politics.
Shwe Mann had been referring to himself as party “chairman” since he was appointed joint chairman by Thein Sein in 2010, although he should have used the term “acting chairman,” said Hla Swe, a Union central executive committee member.
Hla Swe was among the Union politicians who attended a meeting of the party’s central executive committee on Monday in Naypyidaw, where Thein Sein was supposed to discuss the reason for the leadership change.
“By calling himself and acting as chairman, he [Shwe Mann] could have caused disunity between the military and the party, which could have gradually drifted away from the military,” he said. “Actually, the military had established this party, so the relationship between the two should be close, but it wasn’t. That’s why I think he was replaced with Htay Oo.”
Shwe Mann’s ouster would bring the Union party closer to the military, Hla Swe said, adding that two other top party leaders critical of the government — Aung Thein Lin and Zaw Myint Pe — had been demoted.
“The leadership change in the USDP brings the military and USDP party closer, and it should be this way, especially for a country trying to transform to democratic system,” he said.
‘Abide by all the rules’
The leadership changes in the Union party would not affect the upcoming elections, Pike Htwe, a USDP spokesman, said following Thein Sein’s meeting with Union leaders and lawmakers.
“Our party will abide by all the rules and regulations laid down by the Election Commission, he said. “All candidates and party members must strive to make these elections free and fair, and will not do anything to disrupt the situation.”
Shwe Mann, who remains the speaker of parliament, could be impeached under a bill in which lawmakers would lose their seats if one percent of their constituents sign a law to recall them, and the election commission can justify the complaints.
After her talk with Shwe Mann, Aung San Suu Kyi met with NLD lawmakers to urge them to back democratic principles in the event that a vote on the bill arises up at the next parliamentary session, which begins Tuesday, said Win Htein, who attended the meeting in Naypyidaw.
NLD lawmakers believe that the USDP leadership shakeup should not put any pressure on parliament to expedite certain issues, he said.
Despite Thein Sein’s recent efforts to consolidate his party’s power, the NLD is expected to win the upcoming elections.
Reported by Myo Thant Khaine, Kyaw Thu and Win Naing Toe. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.