RANGOON — The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is confident of its chances for success in November’s general election and will not attempt to secure victory through unlawful means, the Union Parliament speaker has told the BBC’s Burmese service.
At the same time, Shwe Mann also claimed his party was not worried if ethnic parties and the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) won more seats in the next parliament.
“We have considered the attitude and will of the people, and we will prioritize people’s rights,” he said. “We are not worried about the election, as people have more of an understanding about our practical work for reform.”
The speaker, who is also chair of the USDP’s election campaign taskforce, promised that his party would not resort to electoral fraud in order to win the November poll.
“The party of 2010 and the party today are not the same thing anymore,” he said. “We have reduced central control and started to practice democratic principles. I have always said the upcoming election must be free and fair, with transparency.”
On the question of the perceived closeness of his relationship with NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi, Shwe Mann acknowledged the opposition had a wealth of public support and said the pair had worked together cooperatively.
“We have mutual understanding, trust and an agreement that we will negotiate and coordinate together for the benefit of both state and citizen,” he said. “But we will compete against each other to win the election. This is the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ we have.”
Responding to suggestions of a rift pitting the speaker and Suu Kyi against the ministry and the military, Shwe Mann made it clear that he was on the right side of the divide.
“This could be assumed,” he said. “If I have to say this clearly: rather than Suu Kyi and I being on one side, we could say that the people and I are on one side.”
Shwe Mann confirmed that he will contest a constituency from his hometown in Phyu Township, Pegu Division, rather than seeking re-nomination in his current seat in Zayarthiri Township, Naypyidaw. He denied this was a consequence of a petition circulated in Zayarthiri, calling on the Union Election Commission (UEC) to impeach the speaker for not respecting the military’s role in the Union Parliament.
The petition claims that Shwe Mann did not inform his constituents about plans to hold ultimately unsuccessful discussions on constitutional amendments last month that would have led to a reduction of military power in the parliament, leading to a ‘misunderstanding’ between the public and the military.
“I can take responsibility,” he said. “Even if they try to begin impeachment proceedings, I am ready and will face the charges according to the law.”
Questioned on whether he would be nominated for the presidency in USDP, Shwe Mann was coy in his response, saying that the final decision on the office would be a matter for his party.