Myanmar ruling party leaders to meet Monday before parliamentary showdown

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 16, 2015 1:31 PM

By Hnin Yadana Zaw and Antoni Slodkowski

NAYPYITAW (Reuters) - Myanmar's ruling party has called a hastily arranged leadership meeting on Monday to prepare for a showdown with their ousted party chairman in parliament this week, two senior party members told Reuters on Sunday.

Rivalry between two of Myanmar's most powerful establishment figures - party chairman Shwe Mann and President Thein Sein - came to a head in a late-night drama on Wednesday, when trucks with security personnel sealed off the headquarters of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

The president sacked Shwe Mann and purged his allies from the USDP leadership, just three months before the country's first free election in 25 years.

But Shwe Mann still holds the powerful position of the speaker of parliament. He will face the emboldened presidential faction of his own party on Tuesday when the chamber reopens for the last session before the Nov. 8 vote.

The USDP sent invitations on Sunday for the Monday morning meeting, the party members said.

The party may discuss how to introduce a bill to parliament that could be used to impeach Shwe Mann, USDP lawmaker Hla Shwe told Reuters on Sunday in the capital. He has yet to receive the agenda for the meeting, he said.

A second lawmaker from the leadership body on his way to the capital also said the meeting was arranged for Monday.

"The Central Executive Committee expects Shwe Mann will use parliament to respond to the recent events," said Hla Swe, referring to the party's top governing body. "We might discuss the 'right to recall' bill."

Under the bill, if one percent of constituents sign a petition and the electoral commission finds their complaint justified, their member of parliament can be recalled.

Shwe Mann faces a petition from his own constituents for supporting a bill in parliament to reduce the military's political power.

Myanmar's electoral commission sent a letter to Shwe Mann on Thursday which featured prominently in state media, requesting he table a vote on the bill.

Shwe Mann has said little since his sacking on what he plans to do, and he has not responded to the letter.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, he said he would do nothing to endanger the country or the people, and that neither should anybody else.

"I don't think Shwe Mann will give up easily. He is not that kind of person," said Hla Swe, although he said parliament was unlikely to see a repeat of the drama at USDP headquarters last week.

"They can do whatever they want inside the party, but they can't disrespect the parliament and its speaker."

(Editing by Simon Webb, Larry King)