Burmese President Thein Sein, 67, may chose not to seek another term in office if democratic reforms continue on pace, a close adviser said this week.
“The president has laid the foundation for the political reforms, and he is the founder of this transition,” Ko Ko Hlaing, his top political adviser, was quoted by Bloomberg.com news in a May 2 interview in Rangoon. “So after this tenure, if it is quite successful, he may be content with his works. The next steps toward democracy will be in the hands of other leaders.”
Observers say the run-up to the next election in 2015, and its results, could determine if Burma’s powerful clutch of generals that have controlled the country for five decades will truly hand over power to a civilian government.
Ko Ko Hlaing said Thein Sein would accept a 2015 election victory for Suu Kyi’s party, but the military’s reaction would be hard to gauge.
“Our civilian-military relationship with democracy is quite a delicate thing,” he said. Accepting a power shift “will depend on the relationship between the political parties and the military.” Suu Kyi, during her party’s campaign, said she was determined to work with all parties, including the military, which would be a key to continued reforms.
The Economist Intelligence Unit said in an April 26 report that if Burma’s military reasserts its power and Western governments tighten sanctions again, the economy would grow about 4.4 percent from 2016 to 2020 compared with 7.7 percent growth in that time if limited policy changes continue.
Besides Suu Kyi, Shwe Mann, the former No. 3 in the junta who is now speaker of parliament’s Lower House, is widely seen as a potential future president. The International Crisis Group last month called Shwe Mann a “strong contender” for the presidency in 2015.
“Thein Sein has signaled privately that he is not interested in a second term, in part due to poor health, but there is no guarantee he would not change his mind,” the ICG said.
No one knows the miitary’s true views, but reports circulated this week that one of Burma’s vice presidents who is known as a hardliner has resigned for “health reasons,” and Thien Sein was considering reorganizing his cabinet, replacing a handful of officials, including powerful leaders in the ruling United Solidarity and Development Party, which won only one seat in the by-elections. A successful shake-up of hardline officials in government could signal that Thein Sein has control of the political establishment.
Recently, he also reorganized his peacemaking team after its lack of success in forging a case-fire with the Kachin Independence Organization, which has stepped up its attacks on government troops and non-military targets.
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