RANGOON — Speaking to reporters on the campaign trail in Pegu Division’s Phyu on Sunday, former ruling party chairman Shwe Mann has admitted the party will likely struggle in the upcoming general election.
“It will be very difficult to win,” Shwe Mann told local media during campaigning in the constituency in which he will compete for a Lower House seat with the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in the Nov. 8 poll.
With 25 percent of seats in Burma’s legislature reserved for military appointees, the USDP needs to win at least a 26 percent share of seats in order to wield influence in selecting the country’s next president. But according to the Union Parliament speaker, the party will struggle even to win that percentage.
Shwe Mann, who was ousted as USDP chair in an abrupt Aug. 12 reshuffle, also told reporters that his relationship with the leader of Burma’s main opposition party, Aung San Suu Kyi—believed to be a factor in his ouster—remained “the same as usual.”
Shwe Mann has been actively campaigning in Phyu since the official campaign period kicked off early last month. The race is a hotly contested one, with other candidates including Ko Ko Kyaw, a former deputy director-general of the President’s Office, and candidates from the National League for Democracy (NLD), the National Democratic Force, the National Unity Party and the Myanmar Farmers Development Party.
Another Phyu hopeful, independent candidate Myat Nu Khaing, was arrested on Oct. 16 over her alleged participation in a protest in Rangoon almost one year prior.
While Shwe Mann’s sobering assessment offered a reality-check for USDP supporters, there has been no such lowering of expectations from among NLD candidates.
NLD rallies attended by the popular chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi have attracted thousands across the country, in contrast to more low-key ruling party events.
At a rally in Rangoon Division’s Kawhmu Township on Saturday—where the opposition leader is recontesting a seat in the Lower House—Suu Kyi cited a recent exit poll that indicated that over 90 percent of advanced voters in Singapore had voted for the NLD.
However, the conduct of the polls remains an ongoing concern for the NLD and its supporters, with issues including error-ridden voter lists and threats or violence against candidates, among a litany of other efforts—some seemingly with the imprimatur of the government—to disrupt the party’s campaigning.
The USDP won over 75 percent of seats in Burma’s last general election in 2010, a poll widely viewed as flawed and that was boycotted by the NLD.