Former Suu Kyi Ally Behind New Political Party Bows Out of Myanmar Election

By Htet Naing Zaw 10 August 2020

NAYPYITAW—U Shwe Mann, founder of the Union Betterment Party (UBP) and former ally of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has said he will not run in the November election.

U Shwe Mann is a former general and was chair of the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) until he was ousted in a power struggle.

“As the person in charge of the UBP, I have decided to devote myself to the party rather than personal victory,” he said during an online press conference from the UBP headquarters in Naypyitaw. “I decided not to run because UBP candidates have a high chance of winning in the constituencies where I wish to run.”

He said that he considered running in his native Pyu Township in Bago Region but that there are other UBP candidates who want to run in Pyu and so he decided not to run.

The party chair said he will still be on the campaign trail around the country for his party despite not running in the election himself.

The UBP will field a total of 927 candidates in 261 townships: 260 for seats in the Lower House, 139 for seats in the Upper House, 251 for seats in regional and state parliaments and 25 for ethnic affairs minister posts.

Among the candidates are 15 former military personnel and five former senior members of the USDP.

“We need a government that can perform better,” said U Shwe Mann at the press conference. The UBP was registered in February 2019 and, after the Union Election Commission (UEC) gave approval in April of that year, U Shwe Mann then opened party offices in some 200 townships within four months.

U Shwe Mann graduated from the Myanmar military’s Defense Services Academy in 1965 and rose through the ranks to become a general in 2010. He was the third-highest-ranking military leader in the country.

He ran in the 2010 elections with the USDP and was elected as Lower House speaker but was ousted from the USDP’s chairmanship in August 2015 in a power struggle with former President U Thein Sein. He contested the 2015 general election as a USDP member but lost to a candidate from the National League for Democracy (NLD).

After the NLD came into office in 2016, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi appointed U Shwe Mann as head of the Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission. His term in the position was extended annually by a majority vote in Parliament.

In 2019 however, U Shwe Mann was caught off-guard when an NLD-dominated vote rejected another proposal to extend his commission after he registered the UBP with the UEC.

In a recent interview, U Shwe Mann said that his relationship with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is normal.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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