Suu Kyi appoints junta strongman to key post

The scale of Myanmar’s parliament has shocked some of the provincial MPs. Source: Wikimedia

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party has nominated Shwe Mann, one of the country’s most powerful politicians from the military government, to head a prominent legal advisory panel, as new MPs prepare to choose their president.

Shwe Mann grew closer to Suu Kyi towards the end of the quasi-civilian government’s term and has become a key adviser since her massive election victory in November.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won 80 per cent of the elected seats and she will eventually be allowed to form an executive in April 1, although the military-drafted constitution bars her from the presidency.

The NLD leader has vowed to defy the constitution and lead the government from “above the president”.

The appointment of Shwe Mann, former Lower House Speaker of parliament and a successful general, will soften tensions with the military which holds 25 per cent of the seats in the parliament and controls three key ministries: defence, home affairs and border security.

Shwe Mann lost his Lower House seat to an NLD candidate in last year’s elections but will lead the Legal Affairs and Examination of Special Matters Commission, consisting of MPs, technocrats and members of the military, who advise on legislation.

“Its duty is giving advice to the parliament, through the Speaker, on legal and special matters,” said political analyst Pe Myint.

Shwe Mann set up the committee himself in 2011 to tackle parliament’s shortage of resources.

It helped to get 149 laws approved, state media claimed.

Horse trading with the military continues with the NLD compliant to the point of being supine.

Party sources said it had offered top government posts to the military as part of a deal in which the armed forces would allow Suu Kyi to become president.

Nothing is official and sources said it was “a very sensitive time.”

“The negotiations have been through brokers,” said Zaw Htay, a member of the government’s transition team from President Thein Sein’s office.

NLD MPs have been optimistic that Suu Kyi will be able to become president and Tin Oo, a former general and co-founder of the party, said this week that Suu Kyi would “definitely become president”.

But the military-run Myawaddy newspaper ran a commentary this week saying that amending the constitution would be against “the national interest”.