NAYPYITAW (Reuters) - Myanmar’s ousted ruling party chief Shwe Mann met Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday as the country’s political leaders maneuvered ahead of a showdown in parliament days after he was sacked by President Thein Sein.
The president removed Shwe Mann and his allies from the leadership of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) last week in a dramatic shake-up of the country’s political establishment three months before the first free general election in 25 years.
Suu Kyi, who leads the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) that is expected to win the vote in November, and Shwe Mann met for an hour, a ruling party parliamentarian said on condition of anonymity. He said he did not know what they discussed.
Shwe Mann’s relationship with Suu Kyi was regarded with suspicion among some members of the USDP, made up mostly of former military officers, and was one of the motives for his sacking.
He antagonized the military by backing her campaign to change the constitution, which grants Myanmar’s generals sweeping political power.
Shwe Mann’s political future hangs in the balance after his rivalry with President Thein Sein came to a head on Wednesday, when trucks with security personnel sealed off the headquarters of the 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.
The next act in the drama will play out on Tuesday, when Shwe Mann will face the emboldened presidential faction of his own party as the chamber reopens for the last session before the Nov. 8 vote.
He remains a USDP party member and still holds the powerful position of speaker of parliament, but is under pressure to table a vote on a bill that could see him impeached.
If approved, lawmakers would lose their seats if one percent of constituents sign a petition to recall them and the election commission finds the complaint is justified.
Shwe Mann 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 is unclear how much support the impeachment 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. The vote could be the first test of how much support Shwe Mann still has in parliament.
“We have a plan to protect and cover him,” said a lower house USDP member of parliament and supporter of Shwe Mann.
“We are watching their moves.”
Thein Sein made a rare appearance at the ruling party headquarters on Monday as his newly installed leadership met to prepare their strategy for the parliament session.
Members of the USDP made an appeal for unity at the meeting.
“The USDP needs to stay strong,” the new chairman of the party, Htay Oo, said in a speech. “Not only do we need to build a strong and united force to achieve our goals, but we also need to work together with allied political forces to win the 2015 election.”
Shwe Mann has said little publicly since his sacking.
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.
Additional reporting by Aung Hla Tun in Yangon; Writing by Timothy McLaughlin and Simon Webb; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan