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For the near half century that they lived under a military junta, the people of Burma knew nothing of the power struggles going on within the regime.
But as the country slowly gets used to its new democratic institutions following a wave of political reforms over the past year, these battles are now being played out very much in public.
Gone is the junta, with power apparently concentrated in the hands of one man. Gone too is the era when infighting only came to light with the rise of a new strongman or the arrest of a general who had fallen out of favour.
Since March last year, when a new constitution came into force, power has rested with reform-minded former generals whose quasi-civilian regime replaced outright military rule.
A two-tiered parliament has given elected politicians a forum to test their new powers of oversight of the executive.
It has also become the stage for a closely-watched confrontation between President Thein Sein and the speaker of the lower house, Shwe Mann, widely considered the leading candidate for the top job after elections in 2015.
The pair, both senior figures in the previous military regime, “have inherited reflexes of the junta” in their obsession for hierarchy says one foreign diplomat, adding the two are now competing over who will be “the greatest democrat”.
Observers say the relationship between the two men has soured and say it may be traced back to the months leading up to the dissolution of the junta.
Several political sources told AFP both of them were astonished when Thein Sein was appointed as the future president in early 2011 while Shwe Mann, who was more senior under the previous regime, took the lesser role.
They are still locked in competition, but with new tools at their disposal.
While they used to shun the press, the two men now hold interviews and news conferences to get their point across. And when one blocks a proposal by the other, revenge is swift.
Last week on Thursday the lower house voted to impeach nine judges of the Constitutional Court, after a six-month long dispute.
The magistrates had outraged MPs in February by denying parliamentary commissions and committees the opportunity to summon ministers for questioning.
The rift has been seen as the country’s first major political crisis since military rule ended last year, pitting the government against parliament , and in particular Thein Sein against Shwe Mann.
“It’s a personal fight,” said Zaw Htet Htwe, a former journalist released from prison in January. But he would not be drawn further.
Shwe Mann “took a lot of risk” by clashing with the court, said an unnamed foreign analyst based in Rangoon. “It will set many people back, not just conservatives within the regime, but also Thein Sein and the judges.”
Some observers fear the army, which officially remains out of daily politics in the new regime, could run out of patience if it perceives a severe threat to the executive.
Others warn the spat has left the reform process vulnerable, with the pace of economic reforms still slow as the country struggles to undo half a century of military mismanagement of the economy.
But the most ardent supporters of reforms play down the personal quarrel as an inevitable teething problem in a country taking tentative steps towards democracy.
The court crisis is no reason for alarm, says Aung Tun Htet, a respected Burmese intellectual.
“We are building the ship as we sail.
“Everything is new for all of us, the learning curve is very steep,” he said, adding fledgling institutions needed to understand their powers within the new political landscape.
However, he also admitted that the reformist former generals, who have gradually convinced the west and many of their domestic opponents of their commitment to change, have little room for mistakes and limited time to drive through changes.
They need to bring growth, demonstrably improve the lives of Burma’s people and make lasting peace with the nation’s patchwork of ethnic minorities. If not, they face losing credibility.
“We can’t afford any hijacking of the reform agenda,” warns Aung Tun Htet.
“The question is… how we get quick results without losing track of our ultimate goals. That’s the paradox, the challenge and the test for the leadership.”