Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi says will work with purged USDP leader, raises fears for Nov polls

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (centre) during a press conference in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on Aug 18, 2015.
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (centre) during a press conference in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on Aug 18, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

NAYPYITAW (Reuters/AFP) - Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Tuesday that she and her party would work with ousted ruling party leader Shwe Mann.

"It is now clear who is the enemy and who is the ally," Ms Suu Kyi told reporters when asked if Mr Shwe Mann's sacking meant she had lost an ally. "The National League for Democracy (NLD) party will work with the ally."

The changes in the ruling party would likely boost the NLD's vote count in the coming November election, she said as MPs gathered in the capital Naypyidaw for a final round of parliament meetings before the Nov 8 vote.

Ms Suu Kyi also raised fears for crucial November elections as Myanmar sought to calm political tensions following Mr Shwe Mann's surprise ouster.

The dramatic removal of Shwe Mann as head of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) last week was seen as a decisive swoop by the President and his military allies to tighten their political hold ahead of the polls.

Ms Suu Kyi said the ruling party putsch had stoked concerns for the elections, which are seen as a key test of democratic reforms.

"People are worried. We all have a responsibility for that," she told a scrum of reporters.

The Nobel laureate also added her voice to concerns raised by the United States and Britain in recent days over how Mr Shwe Mann was removed. Security personnel entered the USDP headquarters late Wednesday.

"This is not what you expect in a working democracy," she said, adding that conflict within the USDP would likely boost support for her NLD, which is expected to make significant gains in the elections.

The opposition leader's cordial political relationship with Mr Shwe Mann, who retains his influential role as parliament speaker, had lead to speculation that the pair were planning an alliance that would have challenged the political might of the still-powerful military.

Mr Shwe Mann had been widely tipped as a potential compromise presidential candidate for Ms Suu Kyi, who is excluded from the role by the junta-drafted constitution.

Both the United States and Britain have raised fears about the method of his removal by President Thein Sein, which saw security personnel enter the USDP headquarters late Wednesday.

The government sought to downplay those fears, calling the ouster "part of a normal course of business" for a political party, in a statement published in the state-backed New Light of Myanmar on Tuesday.

It reaffirmed its commitment to the vote, which many hope will be the freest in modern history for a nation that withered under military rule for nearly half a century.

"The government shall unconditionally accept the results of the elections," it added.

Mr Shwe Mann's removal came just before Friday's deadline for candidates to register to stand in the polls, allowing Mr Thein Sein to insert political and military allies into the top echelons of the USDP.

Both men are former junta generals who shed their uniforms to contest controversial elections in 2010, held without the main opposition or Ms Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest.

Mr Thein Sein's quasi-civilian government has been rewarded for political and economic reforms by the removal of most Western sanctions.

But campaigners have raised mounting fears that those changes are reversing, with dozens of activists and journalists locked up in recent months.