Nikkei Asian Review – “Power games beget curious alliances”

By Gwen Robinson | 21 Nov 2013

Check out the full article here.

In Myanmar’s fledgling democracy, an increasingly tense political dynamic is taking root. It has already produced strange new alliances between old foes and previously unthinkable rivalries between former allies. Much of the dynamic stems from early maneuvering for the presidency in elections scheduled for late 2015. But other urgent issues are at stake in a country where vested interests, entrenched over decades of secretive military rule, are being pushed aside and economic and political opportunities are coming thick and fast.

The powerful parliamentary speaker, Shwe Mann, a declared candidate for the presidency, has launched what many see as a fresh charge against his former military comrade, President Thein Sein.

The speaker surprised observers in late October by telling media that Thein Sein had assured him he would not seek a second term. “I think he meant what he said. He is not running in the election,” Shwe Mann said …

Many saw the speaker’s indiscretion as a crude attempt to force Thein Sein’s hand and give him a lame-duck image. “In this sense, his strategy seems to have been miscalculated,” said a leading Yangon consultancy, Vriens, in a client newsletter, noting that a declaration of candidacy can have little bearing on the outcome. “The president can easily avoid giving a clear answer, because under Myanmar’s presidential electoral college system–anyone who meets eligibility criteria can be nominated.”