USDP Appears Divided as Rift Between President and Party Chairman Widens

USDP Appears Divided as Rift Between President and Party Chairman Widens

USDP, Shwe Mann, Thein Sein, politics, elections

A rift between President Thein Sein (R) and USDP chairman and Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann appears to be widening. (Photos: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — A spokesman of President Thein Sein has rejected remarks by USDP Chairman Shwe Mann, who has said that Thein Sein would not run for another term in office in Burma’s 2015 elections, local media report.

The public disagreement is the latest sign of an apparent rift within the USDP leadership.

Senior members of the party offered different opinions on the significance of the disagreement, with one USDP member suggesting that Thein Sein could form a breakaway political party ahead of the elections if the USDP refuses to let him run.

Shwe Mann, chairman of the ruling Union, Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and Union Parliament Speaker, told a press conference in Naypyidaw last Thursday, “President Thein Sein has told me he will not run for president. I think he meant what he said. He is not running in the election.”

Shwe Mann has made no secret of his ambition to become Burma’s next president. In another headline-grabbing comment, the USDP chair cryptically mentioned that retired military dictator Than Shwe was “concerned” about the current political situation.

President’s Office spokesman Ye Htut said in a reaction that the USDP chairman was wrong to make public remarks about Thein Sein’s future.

“I don’t understand why Shwe Mann expresses his opinion like that,” he told local newspaper 7 Day Daily. “But the president makes this decision himself and will announce his decision to the public directly. We don’t need another source for this information.”

The Irrawaddy was unable to reach Ye Htut for further comment.

Thein Sein and Shwe Mann are both former military regime generals and members of the military-backed USDP. Thein Sein, 68, was handpicked by Than Shwe to become president of the nominally civilian government in 2011. Shwe Mann, 66, was the third most powerful general in the former junta; he became Lower House speaker in 2011 and USDP chairman in May 2013.

It is not the first time that an apparent political rivalry has surfaced between the president and the speaker.

Shwe Mann has questioned the president’s much-praised progress in resolving Burma’s ethnic conflicts in the past few months. In a recent interview with The Irrawaddy, he criticized the president’s advisors of the Myanmar Peace Center, saying the center is “not a decision-maker and cannot make political decisions.”

Whoever leads the USDP in the planned free and fair elections in 2015 elections will have to take on the hugely popular opposition party of Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy (NLD). In Burma, Parliament elects the president.

Htay Oo, USDP vice chairman and central executive committee member, sought to play down the public disagreements and said no decision had been made regarding the party’s main candidate.

“Everybody can become president; Shwe Mann can as well. But in our party we don’t yet choose or discuss who can run for president,” he told The Irrawaddy. He also dismissed rumors that Thein Sein would not seek a second term because of health conditions.

“Having a pacemaker is not a problem,” Htay Oo said, referring to Thein Sein having been fitted with the medical device. “President Thein Sein has good health—he is healthier than me. He gets regular medical check-ups as president. So he could run in the next election.”

Htay Oo also volunteered an opinion on Shwe Mann’s remarks about retired military supremo Than Shwe, saying that he “is not involved in this issue, he just stays at home peacefully. There is no one who controls the USDP, the majority of its members control the USDP. No one can break up the party.”

USDP central committee member Hla Swe, however, was less diplomatic and rebuked his chairman for the remarks about the president’s future.

“Shwe Mann should not say that he wants to become president. If I were him, I would just focus on my work, if you do good work you could surely run for president,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Hla Swe went on to openly support the idea of Thein Sein running for the presidency in 2015 if the USDP under Shwe Mann’s chairmanship would not back his candidacy.

“If Thein Sein establishes another party, it won’t destabilize the country. Now, if we have a new party that focuses on national interests, it will gain support from people who only care about national interests,” he said.

“If the president establishes this kind of party, both the USDP and NLD will become less dominant,” Hla Shwe said. “Some people don’t like the NLD or the USDP in the current political situation.”

Political commentator Yan Myo Thein said it was too early to draw any conclusions from the apparent disagreements within the USDP leadership.

“They have a good strategy, so we must wait and see,” he said, adding that any break-up of the party over the issue is unlikely. “I don’t believe that the USDP will split. They are just playing with two teams. If the USDP splits, there is no benefit for the party, the leaders understand this.”

Yan Myo Thein said that despite Shwe Mann’s chairmanship, some elements in the party were pushing for Thein Sein to lead the party.

“Some forces are pressuring the president to run for another term, but it’s difficult to say who they are,” he said. “But if Thein Sein wins the next elections, he will need support from the NLD [to govern]. If we compare Thein Sein and Shwe Mann, the latter is closer to Aung San Suu Kyi.”

9 Responses to USDP Appears Divided as Rift Between President and Party Chairman Widens

  1. nobody in USDP should run president,

  2. They have two good cops jockeying for position in the ongoing good cop bad cop show. TS may actually wish to cut and run, bow out, as SM, number three in the junta who missed the boat to the top job, is chomping at the bit, MAH with the big stick watching from the wings. The show must go on.

  3. Both of them are military. No one is good, blood stained in their hand.
    How can they run country like this situation. No PEACE, NO REST,TR FIGHTING AND VIOLENCE every where.

    The country need change, so we have to find a new leader for the country.

    military or civilian who ever it may be, as far as is clean and good public accept the majority peoples will vote for her or him.

    Let us create a good nations in the name of PEACE.

  4. amendment to the constitution and let DASK become President.
    That will be the best solution and the happy ending most of us want.
    However there are still dark clouds around.
    Myanmar has suffered enough.
    Please someone get the monkey off our backs.

  5. In or out, there is never a doubt just who’s pulling the strings. Now watch the hardliners position themselves to keep control and keep running Burma like their personal fiefdom.

  6. I do not understand why people are using the term “running for president”. As far as I understand there is no such a process as “running for president” or “presidential election”. According to the current constitution, there is only “selecting process” for president. He or she does not even has to be elected person to become the president. The wining party’s presidential candidate(s) will become the president. If a party has majority in both parliaments, it will have two candidates, and one will be vice president and another will become the president. Therefore there is only process that is how a wining party is going to select its’ presidential candidate(s). In this case it is quite similar to the process of selecting a prime minister in parliamentary systems where a wining party usually select their party leader as the prime minister who normally has to be a elected parliament member. They have party leadership election within their party. Sometimes a party leader and party chairman are not the same. But in Myanmar, who is party leader? party chairman? It seems so. If a party chairman will become the party’s presidential candidate, no president would be able to serve two term as president because a current president cannot be party’s chairman according to the constitution. If incumbent party win the next election in 2015, U Shwe Man is the party chairman, and so dose he has to be one of the presidential candidate? the answer is “NO”. We do not even know how UNDP selects their candidates for president. There is not process so called “running for president”. Just say like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said “I want to be the president”. No one can run for president, but everyone can be picked or selected as president by wining party. So make sure turn your phone on after 2015 election, you might get a call from the wining party. But if NLD wins you do not necessarily need to turn on your phone, they will pick Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as presidential candidate whether the constitution allows or not. And the real political game will be on.

  7. Even if The parliament and the President are on the same page, it is still the miltary who will uphold parachute society.

    Freedom is not cheap.

  8. Cme to think of it, USDP is more like NLD now, both are civilians

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