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Myanmar's Suu Kyi Holds First 'National Reconciliation' Meeting

Shwe Mann, left, speaker of Myanmar's Union Parliament, greets National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi before their meeting at the Lower House of Parliament, Naypyitaw, Nov. 19, 2015.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party dominated this month's elections, met Thursday with a key member of the outgoing ruling party as part of efforts to smooth a delicate political transition.

Officials have released no details about what was discussed during the closed-door meeting in Naypyidaw between the Burmese democracy icon and lower house speaker Shwe Mann.

It is the first of three scheduled "national reconciliation" meetings between Aung San Suu Kyi and senior officials. President Thein Sein and army chief Min Aung Hlaing have also agreed to talks.

Talks could take weeks

A government official told VOA's Burmese service Wednesday it may take more than a month for all the talks to take place, but he downplayed any concerns the transition was moving too slowly.

“We don’t see any problem at the moment. What President [Thein Sein] said all the time was to maintain and support stability in transition period," Information Minister Ye Htut said.

"In the meantime, [Aung San Suu Kyi] herself has urged supporters of her party to remain calm," he added. "I don’t think there’s much to worry about because most people also believe stability is important at this time."

NLD victory

Preliminary results from the November 8 general election show Aung Sang Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) trouncing the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Myanmar's President Thein Sein after casting vote in Naypyidaw, Nov. 8, 2015.
Myanmar's President Thein Sein after casting vote in Naypyidaw, Nov. 8, 2015.

If the results hold, it will allow the NLD to elect the next president and form the next government. The Union Election Commission is not expected to announce final results for about two weeks.

The transition process will not be completed until March when President Thein Sein is scheduled to step down.

So far, senior officials have suggested they will respect the election results and not impede the transfer of power. Fears to the contrary, however, are not unfounded.

In 1990, the NLD also won a landslide victory in the country's last free elections. But the results were ignored by the ruling junta, and Aung San Suu Kyi spent most of the next 20 years under house detention.

Even with the NLD's victory, the military establishment will retain a wide degree of power over the country's sweeping bureaucratic systems.

Aung San Suu Kyi also cannot become president herself, since her late husband and two sons are British, and Myanmar's constitution bars anyone with a foreign-born spouse or children from becoming president.

She has said recently that she will instead take up a governmental role "above the president."

Unlikely partnership

Aung San Suu Kyi's meeting Thursday with Shwe Mann is significant, in part because the two have formed what appears to be an improbable political alliance in recent months.

The ex-general was once considered the third most powerful figure in the country's former military government. But he was ousted from his leadership positions in the army-backed USDP earlier this year after attempting to curb the military's grip on parliament.

Shwe Mann is among hundreds of USDP lawmakers to lose his seat in the election. But the defeated lawmakers will not leave office until the end of January, raising concerns they could pass legislation making it more difficult for the NLD to govern.

Some information is from Reuters and AFP.