08/19/2015, 00.00
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An alliance between Aung San Suu Kyi and Shwe Mann could be positive, local Catholic source says

by Francis Khoo Thwe
Myanmar’s main opposition leader and the speaker of the lower house of parliament might be considering an alliance for the upcoming parliamentary election. Removed as chairman of his party, Shwe Mann is considered a prominent moderate figure. For a Catholic observer, an alliance between the two would be a good thing, but its impact on the election is hard to measure.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Recent media reports about a possible alliance between Myanmar’s main opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Thura Shwe Mann, might not be far off the mark. Such a development could have a positive outcome, even though it is impossible to predict what impact the upcoming parliamentary elections will have on the balance of power in the country, an anonymous Catholic source in Yangon told AsiaNews.

Myanmar’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said on Tuesday that turmoil within the country’s governing party had bolstered her relationship with the party’s ousted chairman.

Ms Suu Kyi, who spoke to reporters as Parliament resumed for a final session before national elections in November, noted that Thura Shwe Mann, who was removed last week by President Thein Sein as chairman of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), was an ally.

“Now the picture is clearer as to who is a friend and [who is] an enemy, and our relationship with our allies is stronger,” she told reporters in Naypyidaw, the capital.

The Noble Prize laureate went on to say that her party, the National League for Democracy, would “work with the ally,” taking advantage of divisions in the USDP to boost its electoral prospects. 

For several analysts and experts, an alliance between Suu Kyi and the outgoing speaker of the lower house of parliament would be a major development.

Mr Mann wields considerable influence in the country, and has substantial public support. He has also been widely touted as a possible compromise presidential candidate since Ms Suu Kyi herself cannot run for the post under the terms of the constitution drafted by the military government.

At present, a possible alliance between the two leaders remains distant, but constitutional reform could be a common ground, including changes that would allow Aung San Suu Kyi to run for every state office.

Mr Mann, a former top official in the junta that ruled Myanmar until 2011, was removed from his party post amid talk of a rivalry with President Thein Sein.

According to international observers, the poll in November and its organisation are a fundamental step in the country’s process of democratisation. However, the latter has experienced setbacks in recent months.

The source that spoke to AsiaNews showed appreciation for the speaker of the lower house of parliament, describing him as an "educated and cultured person” who “is causing some problems within the ruling party. In certain ways he is against the military, has a more open vision and was expanding his power base.”

With him, the NLD "might be stronger, but the majority seems to be still in the hands of the military and the ruling party,” the source explained.

“It is difficult at present to imagine an opposition victory in the November elections. In fact, it is unlikely that the election will be really clean, fair and democratic . . . Still, let us see what happens.”

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