According to several Burmese political analysts, there is a "secret deal" between the speaker and opposition leader. The pact, as they see it, would solve Suu Kyi's need to amend the constitution before the national election in late 2015. She is currently barred from the highest office due to a provision which prohibits Burmese who married or had children with a foreigner from attaining the presidency. Suu Kyi had two children with her late husband, British academic Michael Aris.
Many observers believe it will be impossible to push through such amendments, which require a parliamentary majority of at 75 percent plus the support of at least one military member -- what Suu Kyi calls "one brave soldier" -- before the poll.
If, as expected, Suu Kyi's NLD wins a large majority in the election, she will have considerable say in who becomes president, under a system in which parliament (rather than voters) chooses the president. She would back Shwe Mann, and under their so-called "deal," the two would use their combined powers to effect the necessary constitutional amendment. "Ultimately, he would pass the leadership to her, in a system that enables this to happen," says a Burmese blogger with close connections to both politicians.
The deal -- which some NLD and USDP insiders believe has been agreed -- is "politically practicable and foreseeable," he adds. "But, the point is whether Suu Kyi and Shwe Mann have a viable political strategy for executing it -- and whether they can trust each other enough to stick by it." Indeed, says a local newspaper editor, Suu Kyi would be "idiotic" to strike any deal requiring her voraciously ambitious new ally to hand over power.
The USDP's secretary-general, Maung Maung Thein, strongly rejects the notion of a deal, saying it would be "impossible." Tellingly, he doesn't rule out a potential coalition between Suu Kyi and Shwe Mann's supporters. But that, he notes, is for a later discussion. "It is too early to mention any coalition, even setting aside the question of whether NLD people would accept the USDP as a partner."
More realistic, say some, is the possibility of a ‘tandem" solution, one that would move Burma to a French-style system with a president and prime minister -- roles that could potentially satisfy both ambitious politicians.
Like everything in Burmese politics, there are potential "spoilers" in either scenario, starting with speculation about the ambitions of military chief, Min Aung Hlaing. Since his promotion earlier this year to the military's highest rank of senior general, previously held by dictator Than Shwe, his behavior has changed, say diplomats who monitor the military. "He is far more assertive, he is more confident, and he is definitely more political," says one Asian diplomat.
It's also possible that Thein Sein, who has gained popularity for his reforms, could try for a second term. After earlier rejecting the prospect, he has recently left the question open. Some advisors say it is primarily to avoid a "lame duck" image in his final phase of presidency; others believe he is considering his prospects.
There is talk of many other scenarios amid the frenzied speculation about the future. This is little wonder, however, considering Burma's fast but fragile transformation from the days of brutal military rule, when "parliament" was a remote concept and "people's will" was mentioned only by activists.