Former General to Form New Party to ‘Support State Counselor’

By Htet Naing Zaw 31 January 2019

NAYPYITAW—The aim of the political party to be established by ex-general and former Lower House Speaker U Shwe Mann, is to support State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, according to the sources close to him.

U Shwe Mann, who has close ties to Daw Aung San Su Kyi, will continue to support her through his party by reinforcing the civilian government in Myanmar, according to U Win Oo, former Lower House lawmaker and member of U Shwe Mann’s party.

“We have extended our help since Daw Aung San Suu Kyi entered [the Parliament] through the [2012] by-election. Though we lost and stepped down, [U Shwe Mann] has been helping with the [Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission]. This is because we want to strengthen the civilian government. We want [the civilian government) to last for a long time. We are helping with this good intention in mind,” U Win Oo told The Irrawaddy.

U Shwe Mann was once considered the third most powerful man in the military regime and graduated from the Defense Services Academy in 1965. He rose through the ranks to become a general in 2010 and was appointed chief of general staff which gave him authority over the army, navy and air force.

He contested for the 2010 elections as a member of the Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) and was elected to the position of Lower House Speaker.

U Shwe Mann was purged from the USDP’s top position in August 2015 in a power struggle with former president U Thein Sein.

He contested for the 2015 general elections as a USDP member, but lost to a National League for Democracy (NLD) candidate.

However, in 2016, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi appointed him head of the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission of Myanmar’s Parliament.

His move to ally with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi before the 2015 polls earned him the title of a turncoat among USDP supporters.

According to U Win Oo, U Shwe Mann has not yet chosen a name for his party, and therefore has not submitted an application to the Union Election Commission for registration as a political party.

Tentative names for the party include Union Party, People’s Affairs Party, National Interest Party, and Citizens’ Affairs Party, he said.

U Shwe Mann will be the chairperson of the party, and there will be 19 members on the central executive board, he added.

Sources close to U Shwe Mann said ex-military officers are also on the party’s executive board. Around four current members of the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission will also join the party which will be funded by the founders themselves.

“Some people have shown support and some people have criticized it. Despite this, we have a clear conscience. We will help where we are needed. We are establishing the party just because the law necessitates it. We won’t in fact engage in politics. We will only work for the interest of the country,” U Win Oo told The Irrawaddy.

U Shwe Mann has informed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi about his plan to establish a party, according to sources close to him.

USDP spokesperson U Nanda Hla Myint acknowledged that U Shwe Mann’s party would have a certain impact on his party, but that they are not worried about the 2020 general elections under the leadership of the USDP’s new chairperson U Than Htay.

“Anyone who took top positions in the [USDP] worked for the interests of the country and citizens. We are sorry to see that someone who helped build and lead the party has done this,” he said.

Though U Shwe Mann’s party can win some support, it would not win many seats in the 2020 election, according to former Lower House lawmaker and political analyst U Ye Htun.

“NLD supporters will not vote for U Shwe Mann’s party in the election. Only those who are frustrated with the USDP, ex-members of the USDP and U Shwe Mann’s supporters in the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Military) will vote for his party. This will surely help the NLD,” said U Ye Htun.