Ex-General U Shwe Mann Registers New ‘Union Betterment Party’

By San Yamin Aung 5 February 2019

YANGON—Ex-general and former Lower House Speaker U Shwe Mann applied to register a new political party called the Union Betterment Party with the Union Election Commission (UEC) in Naypyitaw on Tuesday.

Rumors that U Shwe Mann, ousted chairman of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), would establish his own political party to contest the upcoming 2020 elections have been speculated since last year.

The ex-general said that he submitted the party registration with the UEC, announcing the party name and its five main objectives, on his official Facebook page.

He said his party will work towards building a democratic federal union; for economic development as a basic necessity for the development of the country; systematic implementation of education, healthcare and culture; and to establish strong rule of law, stability, equality and peace.

He also added that the new party will work to establish a constitution which is suitable for the country.

“We will work for national and public interests in the right way and effectively, together with the people,” he said in a video message which accompanied the announcement.

According to sources close to him, U Shwe Mann, who has close ties to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, aims to support her through his party by reinforcing the civilian government.

U Shwe Mann was elected for a Lower House seat in Naypyitaw in the 2010 general election representing USDP. Later, he was elected to the position of Lower House Speaker.

He was sacked from the position of USDP party chief amid a power struggle with the then-president U Thein Sein in August 2015.

In the 2015 general election, he ran for office in his native Bago Region’s Phyu Township but lost to a National League for Democracy (NLD) candidate.

U Shwe Mann, who was once considered the third most powerful man in the former military regime, currently chairs a powerful legislative body, the Union Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission.

Ex-military officers and some members of the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission will be members of the Union Betterment Party.

As part of the registration process, the UEC will publish the proposed party’s basic information in state-run newspapers. If no one objects to the proposed name, emblem or flag, the Union Betterment Party will be officially registered.

There are currently 96 registered political parties in the country, according to the UEC.