Ousted ruling party chairman Shwe Mann opened the final session of the lower house of Myanmar’s parliament on Tuesday less than three months before national elections, facing off against a motion to end the session early so lawmakers could deal with fallout from recent floods and begin their political campaigns.
Shwe Mann, who was seen as one of the top candidates for president in the Nov. 8 elections, was violently removed last Thursday from his position as chief of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in a bid by President Thein Sein to consolidate his own power.
Shwe Mann, who remains speaker of the house, rejected the proposal by USDP lawmaker Thein Tun to cut short the new parliamentary session so that lawmakers could address problems caused by recent floods throughout the country and gear up for the approaching elections.
“I welcome this proposal, but, as a parliamentary speaker I would like to let people know that I will work on issuing important laws that are in the people’s interest and make the work of parliament a priority,” he said.
He also told lawmakers to take leave if they wanted to help flood victims or engage in campaign activities during the official 60-day campaign period that begins on September 8.
Hla Swe, a USDP lawmaker, said the current session should be called to a close.
“The current parliament should be ended as the elections are the priority now,” he said. “There are many things that can’t be done by this government and during parliament’s term. The next government will do what’s left from the current parliament.”
Not the entire USDP
In the meantime, Htay Oo, who was appointed as the new USDP vice chairman, denied that Shwe Mann was forcibly removed as party chairman, and said he himself had assumed the politician’s duties because of restrictions on the president’s role in party politics.
He also said Thein Tun’s proposal to end the current parliamentary session did not reflect the sentiments of the entire USDP.
Zaw Myint Maung, a lawmaker from the opposition National League of Democracy (NLD) said his party did not want to end the parliamentary session early because lawmakers had to decide upon a bill in which they would lose their seats if one percent of their constituents wanted to recall them.
The bill could have an impact on lawmakers during the elections, he said, and Shwe Mann could be impeached under it, if it passes.
Thein Sein and Shwe Mann had been at odds because Shwe Mann backed a call by Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition national League for Democracy (NLD) for changes to the constitution that would limit the power of military lawmakers, who comprise a quarter of Myanmar’s parliament and are appointed, not elected.
Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party is largely expected to win the November vote, met with Shwe Mann on Monday at her home in Naypyidaw and again on Tuesday at his office.
Tin Maung Than, an expert on Myanmar politics, said Shwe Mann’s removal from his position as chairman of the USDP would not have much impact on the elections.
“But there will be some confusion after the elections when it come to forming a government,” he said. “People have a list of names of who can be the president. The president will be selected by parliament, not by the people. If party members don’t support someone in the parliament, then he can’t be the president.”
Reported by Myo Thant Khaine, Thiri Min Zin, Win Naung Toe, Khin Khin Ei and Kyaw Kyaw Aung. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.