From presidential frontrunner to ousted ruling party leader and then defeated parliamentary candidate, the roller-coaster of Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann’s political career may yet be salvaged.

Thanks to his close working relations with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and his willingness to bring constitutional reform to the parliamentary floor, U Shwe Mann will likely be given a top role by the National League for Democracy-run government, according to political analysts.

Political party and government sources who wished to remain anonymous said that Thura U Shwe Mann’s comeback would be staged either as the next chair of the Union Election Commission or as the head of the Constitutional Tribunal.

“As Speaker, he already has experience with legislative matters and also he has a degree in law,” said a source. “I think either of these two positions is suitable for U Shwe Mann.”

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Thein Sein previously enjoyed good working relations after he convinced the opposition leader and her party to run in the 2012 by-elections. But after assuming her seat in parliament it was the third-ranking member of the former junta whom Daw Aung San Suu Kyi counted on as her ally. They often met in parliament and sometimes held press conferences together within the last three years.

When asked during an interview before the elections if he believed his ousting from the ruling party leadership in August was due to his willingness to collaborate with the opposition leader, Thura U Shwe Mann admitted it might have contributed to his dismissal.

The turbulence this collaboration created in his own party has not dissuaded Thura U Shwe Mann from seeking to cooperate further with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, however. In an interview with Reuters during the election campaign period, Thura U Shwe Mann said they continued to share the common goals for the stability and development of the country.

“This cooperation will continue into the next parliament. We will work together for the country,” he said.

Previously deemed in leaked US cables as the “dictator in waiting”, prior to the election Thura U Shwe Mann had made no secret of his presidential ambitions, even as that put him at odds with President U Thein Sein who declined to contest a seat and suggested in interviews that he might also have an interest in serving another term. Despite a murky past and a not untainted reform resume, Thura U Shwe Mann has firmly planted himself and his faction in the pro-democracy, pro-transition camp, much to the chagrin of his former military colleagues who, some analysts speculated, requested the Speaker be pushed from the party.

At a press conference called just one week after Thura U Shwe Mann’s dismissal from the Union Solidarity and Development Party, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also pledged that her party would continue to work with their “ally”.

Despite losing his seat in Pyu, Thura U Shwe Mann has continued to meet frequently with the NLD leader after the elections, holding private meetings six times.

Senior members of the USDP suggested Thura U Shwe Mann can serve as a valuable interlocutor between the NLD and the military MPs in the next stage of government.

“There is no person like U Shwe Mann who knows so much about military,” said U Zaw Myit Pe, an Amyotha Hluttaw MP for the USDP. He added that the Speaker may have passed along pointers and suggestions ahead of the NLD leader’s meetings last week with Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and ex-senior general Than Shwe.

“Daw Su cooperates with U Shwe Mann for the sake of the country,” said U Zaw Myint Pe, who was also removed from the USDP’s central executive committee in the August purge.

U Thura Shwe Mann has benefited from close relations with another former leader of the country, U Than Shwe. When U Than Shwe became commander-in-chief of the Tatmadaw in 1992, he appointed Thura U Shwe Mann as one of his deputies. Thura U Shwe Mann was allowed to rise through the ranks and become the third most powerful figure in the country. But when the regime embarked on its period of transition toward partial civilian rule, he was not granted the top post as president.

USDP MP Thura U Aung Ko, who sits next to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in parliament, said it would benefit the NLD to bring other parties into their government.

“She will not form the government with NLD candidates alone,” he said, adding that she is also expected to appoint ethnic politicians to prominent roles to boost national reconciliation.

“That’s why the Speaker does his best to support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to form a government for national reconciliation,” said Thura U Aung Ko.

Political commentators have speculated that the political rift within the USDP that led to Thura U Shwe Mann’s ousting also cost the party heavy losses in the election. The former ruling party captured just 41 seats in the two houses of parliament.

Even as he predicted the coming election loss for the party and abdicated responsibility, Thura U Shwe Mann was clearly not giving up his political maneuverings. He has actively continued to post on Facebook, including most recently urging the public to support the NLD for the good of the country.

U Ye Htun, a representative of Pyithu Hluttaw from the Shan National Development Party, said there were many posts, such as Union minister, that Thura U Shwe Mann would likely not accept as he does not want to work under the thumb of the president.

“Either the chair of the UEC or the Constitutional Tribunal would be suitable for U Shwe Mann because he can work independently,” said U Ye Htun. The USDP could not challenge these presidential appointments, but if he does become head of the UEC, the NLD may be accused of benefiting from favouritism. If Thura U Shwe Mann were to take up the UEC position, he would also have to resign from the USDP, U Ye Htun said.

While the NLD spokesperson refused to comment on any government positions before they are officially announced, Thura U Shwe Mann has also kept silent.

Local political commentator U Sithu Aung Myint cautioned against jumping to early conclusions, as the appointment of positions remains some time away.

“Speculation is just speculation. Who knows what will happen? We have to wait and see,” he said.

http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/18045-u-shwe-mann-still-in-running-for-senior-post-after-transition.html