Myanmar lawmakers to vote on recall bill amid political turmoil

20 Aug, 2015 2:47 pm

YANGON – Myanmar lawmakers will vote on Thursday on a bill that could lead to the impeachment of ousted ruling party chief Shwe Mann, as political factions realign after the ex-general was dramatically sacked by the president last week.

Shwe Mann was purged less than three months before a general election in Myanmar, which has undergone major changes since the end of direct military rule in 2011, but where rival forces are now vying for power after an unprecedented period of reform.

Myanmar’s commander-in-chief reiterated the need for the army to maintain its powerful role in politics, but said it would accept the results of the Nov. 8 election in comments posted in English on his Facebook page on Thursday.

The constitution reserves 25 percent of seats in parliament for unelected military officers.

“Free and fair elections are also my aspiration,” said Senior General Min Aung, adding the army would respect the law.

If the controversial bill before parliament on Thursday is approved, lawmakers would lose their seats if 1 percent of constituents signed a petition to recall them and the election commission found the complaint was justified.

Shwe Mann, who remains a ruling party member and the speaker of the lower house, faces such a petition from his own constituents for his support in June of bills to amend the constitution and limit the military’s role in politics.

It was unclear how much support the bill has in parliament, where Shwe Mann has cultivated a reputation as a statesman since taking up the role of speaker in 2011, when the ruling junta ceded power to a quasi-civilian government.

Noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said this week the bill was “ridiculous”, arguing the threshold should be set at around 20 percent of constituents.

Shwe Mann’s political future hangs in the balance after his rivalry with President Thein Sein came to a head last week, when trucks with security personnel sealed off the headquarters of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The president’s allies hosted late-night meetings at the guarded USDP complex and purged Shwe Mann’s faction from the party’s executive committee.

Cherry FM, a radio station linked to Shwe Mann’s daughter-in-law, was back on the air on Thursday, after being suspended last week by the Ministry of Information, which said it had failed to convince the government it would be impartial.

“Since they agreed to follow the rules and regulations set for all FM broadcasters, they were permitted to resume,” Myint Htwe, an official at the Ministry of Information, told Reuters.

Than Htwe Zaw, the general manager of Cherry FM confirmed that the station was allowed to begin broadcasting again, but declined to comment further. -Reuters

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