NAYPYIDAW — The ruling military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has no plans for political backsliding, one of its leading members said on Monday, following a three-day meeting of the party’s central executive committee in Burma’s capital.
After the USDP’s first-ever Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting in Naypyidaw, USDP vice chairman Htay Oo said the party was committed to Burma’s road to reform, which began when a nominally civilian government came to power in 2011 after nearly half a century of military rule.
“There will be no turning back by our party,” the vice chairman told reporters at a press conference, adding that he did not know any hardliners in the country.
The USDP formed in 2010 as the successor of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the former junta’s mass organization.
Asked by The Irrawaddy about a rumor that senior party members had been suspended for their affiliations with the Union-level cabinet, Htay Oo said there had been no reshuffle of the USDP’s top positions, and that current ministers such as Aung Min of the President’s Office could no longer constitutionally belong to the party.
“All Union ministers as well as our president have to follow the Constitution,” he said.
The vice chairman said the CEC had not talked during their meeting about forming a coalition government with the National League for Democracy (NLD), the opposition party of Aung San Suu Kyi. “There was no discussion about it,” he said.
The party’s chief, Shwe Mann, who is speaker of Parliament’s lower house, said during his recent visit to the United States that he was not ruling out a coalition government with the NLD after crucial elections in 2015, assuming such a coalition was in the national interest.
During the more 30-minute media briefing at the party’s headquarters in the country’s new capital, Htay Oo said party leaders at the CEC meeting did not decide which electoral system they would support for the 2015 election. One of the party’s top leaders, Aung Thaung, told The Irrawaddy last week that the party would likely vote for a proportional representation (PR) system for the upcoming election, a change from the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system.
“We haven’t decided whether we will change the current electoral system,” he said.
“Those who know well about the electoral systems were just sharing their knowledge, reading papers about them, so that our MPs will have some idea about the systems when we discuss them in Parliament.”
Burma’s Union Election Commission asked Parliament in May to make a decision about changing the country’s electoral system ahead of the 2015 election. The request came at the recommendation of a 10-member democratic alliance—including the Chin National Party (CNP), the Democratic Party (Burma) and the All Mon Regions Democracy Party—which promotes the PR system.
“If the new system will benefit the country and the people, we’ll try to change [to] it,” Htay Oo said.
The USDP vice chairman said his party believed in a multi-party system and viewed other political organizations as colleagues.
“It’s not just the NLD—why shouldn’t we collaborate with those [other] parties if it’s good for the country?” he said.
Asked about a possible constitutional amendment, which has been widely discussed in recent months, he said the USDP had not proposed to change the 2008 Constitution.
In March, two senior USDP members, Aye Myint and Thein Zaw, proposed that a committee of law experts and intellectuals be formed to review the Constitution and bring it in line with the country’s broader reform process.
“Please be sure to note that we just made a suggestion to form a committee, to be ready in case [someone] wants to fix the Constitution,” Htay Oo said.