Myanmar to vote on controversial bill as political turmoil deepens

YANGON - Myanmar lawmakers will vote on Thursday on a bill that could lead to the impeachment of ousted ruling party chief Shwe Mann, as political factions realign after the ex-general was dramatically sacked by the president last week.

If the bill is approved, lawmakers would lose their seats if 1 percent of constituents signed a petition to recall them and the election commission found the complaint was justified.

Shwe Mann, who remains a ruling party member and the speaker of the lower house, faces such a petition from his own constituents for his support in June of bills to amend the constitution and limit the military's role in politics.

It was unclear how much support the bill has in parliament, where Shwe Mann has cultivated a reputation as a statesman since taking up the role of speaker in 2011, when the ruling junta ceded power to a quasi-civilian government.

Noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said this week the bill was"ridiculous", arguing the threshold should stand around 20 percent of constituents.

Myanmar will hold a general election on Nov. 8, its first nationwide ballot since the end of direct military rule and a vote that could decide the scope of the country's reforms.

The election comes at a critical time for the Southeast Asian nation, which has undergone major changes since 2011 but is now seeing tensions between rival forces vying for power after an unprecedented period of reform.

Shwe Mann's political future hangs in the balance after his rivalry with President Thein Sein came to a head last week, when trucks with security personnel sealed off the headquarters of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The president's allies hosted late-night meetings at the guarded USDP complex and purged Shwe Mann's faction from the party's executive committee.