Aung San Suu Kyi con­cerned at Myan­mar rul­ing party putsch


Myan­mar’s op­po­si­tion leader Aung San Suu Kyi raised fears Tues­day for cru­cial Novem­ber elec­tions as the gov­ern­ment tried to calm po­lit­i­cal ten­sions af­ter the sur­prise oust­ing of the rul­ing party chief.

Last week’s dra­matic re­moval of Shwe Mann as head of the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party (USDP) was seen as a decisive swoop by Pres­i­dent Thein Sein and his mil­i­tary al­lies to tighten their po­lit­i­cal grip be­fore the polls.

Speak­ing as MPs gath­ered in the cap­i­tal Naypyi­daw for a fi­nal round of par­lia­men­tary meet­ings be­fore the Nov. 8 vote, Suu Kyi said the rul­ing party move had stoked con­cerns for the elec­tions, which are seen as a key test of demo­cratic re­forms.

“Peo­ple are wor­ried. We all have a re­spon­si­bil­ity for that,” she told a scrum of re­porters.

The No­bel lau­re­ate also added her voice to con­cerns raised by the United States and United King­dom in re­cent days over how Shwe Mann was re­moved. Se­cu­rity per­son­nel en­tered the USDP head­quar­ters late Wed­nes­day.

“This is not what you ex­pect in a work­ing democ­racy,” she said, adding that con­flict within the USDP would likely boost sup­port for her Na­tional League for Democ­racy, which is ex­pected to make sig­nif­i­cant gains in the elec­tions.

The op­po­si­tion leader’s cor­dial po­lit­i­cal re­la­tion­ship with Shwe Mann, who re­tains his in­flu­en­tial role as par­lia­ment speaker, had led to spec­u­la­tion they were plan­ning an al­liance that would have chal­lenged the still-pow­er­ful mil­i­tary.

Shwe Mann had been widely tipped as a po­ten­tial com­pro­mise pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. Suu Kyi her­self can­not run un­der the jun­tadrafted con­sti­tu­tion.

Observers say his public sup­port for her at­tempts to change the char­ter had an­tag­o­nized the army, which is de­ter­mined to safe­guard its po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence.

‘Nor­mal’ party busi­ness

Novem­ber’s elec­tions are for par­lia­men­tary seats — although 25 per­cent of the leg­is­la­ture is re­served for un­elected sol­diers — and the pow­er­ful role of pres­i­dent will later be se­lected by MPs.

Thein Sein has not ruled out a sec­ond term.

The gov­ern­ment tried Tues­day to play down the po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty. It de­scribed Shwe Mann’s oust­ing as “part of a nor­mal course of busi­ness” for a po­lit­i­cal party, in a state­ment pub­lished in the state-backed New Light of Myan­mar.

It reaf­firmed its com­mit­ment to the vote, which many hope will be the freest in mod­ern history for a na­tion that with­ered un­der mil­i­tary rule for nearly half a cen­tury.

“The gov­ern­ment shall un­con- di­tion­ally ac­cept the re­sults of the elec­tions,” it added.

Shwe Mann ap­peared tense as he ad­dressed par­lia­ment for the first time since los­ing his grip on the rul­ing party, urg­ing the leg­is­la­ture to work with “se­ri­ous­ness” but not di­rectly men­tion­ing the USDP power strug­gle.

His re­moval came just be­fore Fri­day’s dead­line for can­di­dates to register to stand in the polls, al­low­ing Thein Sein to in­sert po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary al­lies into the top ech­e­lons of the USDP.

Both men are for­mer junta gen­er­als who shed their uni­forms to con­test con­tro­ver­sial elec­tions in 2010. The polls were held with­out the main op­po­si­tion party or Suu Kyi her­self, who was un­der house ar­rest.


(Above) Mil­i­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives sign the reg­is­tra­tion book upon their ar­rival to at­tend a reg­u­lar ses­sion of the lower house of par­lia­ment in Naypyitaw, Myan­mar, Tues­day, Aug. 18. (Right) Myan­mar Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann ar­rives to at­tend a reg­u­lar ses­sion of par­lia­ment in Naypyitaw, Tues­day.

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