Aung San Suu Kyi begins 'reconciliation' talks amid jitters over Myanmar's power transition

Shwe Mann (Left), Myanmar's Parliamentary speaker, greets National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Shwe Mann (Left), Myanmar's Parliamentary speaker, greets National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi.PHOTO: REUTERS

NAYPYIDAW (AFP) - Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met Myanmar's influential parliamentary speaker on Thursday (Nov 19) for key talks as the country moves from decades of military rule towards democracy after landmark polls this month.

Uncertainty surrounds the protracted handover of power in the South-east Asian nation, after Ms Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy swept to victory in the Nov 8 polls, the first free and fair elections in a quarter century.

Her closed-door meeting with former general Shwe Mann, with whom she has developed an amicable working relationship, was "confidential", according to NLD spokesman Win Htein.

"We are working on important matters for the country," he added.

Mr Shwe Mann had at one point been tipped as a potential compromise candidate for the role until he was ousted from the leadership of the army-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party in August, and then lost his constituency race in the elections.

The meeting is the first of three "national reconciliation" discussions set to take place, including with the president and army chief.

Much of the uncertainty over Myanmar's transition is around who will be the next president - a role denied to Ms Suu Kyi by the army-drafted constitution because she married and had children with a foreigner.

Ms Suu Kyi has requested talks with President Thein Sein and powerful army chief Min Aung Hlaing to try and smooth a delicate transition that will further chip away at the military's influence.

Both men have agreed to the meetings and congratulated Ms Suu Kyi on her sweeping victory in the first polls the party has contested in a quarter of a century.

But a date for talks has not yet materialised and officials in the president's office have indicated that it could be weeks before they can go ahead.

This has jarred nerves in Myanmar, where the NLD's 1990 electoral landslide was ignored by the then ruling junta, who held onto power for a further two decades before ceding to a quasi-civilian regime in 2011.

Mr Thein Sein, who will remain in office until March under Myanmar's complex system which enshrines a lengthy power handover, will wait until after "all the processes of the election" are completed, the President's Office director Zaw Htay told AFP.

This could be protracted as election officials wait for final results from a handful of constituencies, while also processing complaints of irregularities from some candidates.

Ms Suu Kyi has opted to take a modest approach to victory so far, dampening celebrations despite her party's 80 per cent majority in the combined national Parliament.

The result trounced Mr Thein Sein's current ruling party, which will continue to dominate Parliament during a lame-duck session that is set to last until the end of January.