The Irrawaddy

Speculation of U Shwe Mann Party Grows

U Shwe Mann

NAYPYITAW — Political circles are speculating that U Shwe Mann will establish a political party to contest the 2020 elections. The ex-general, who has close ties to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has neither confirmed nor denied the idea.

When asked by a reporter in mid-May during the launching of his book “She, I and Myanmar’s Politics,” about his political career, U Shwe Mann did not reject the suggestion that he would establish a party.

“What is the objective of establishing a party? We have to consider the objective. I will work as long as I am healthy if it is needed for the interests of the country and citizens. But what role I will play depends on the future situation,” he replied.

U Shwe Mann, who was once considered the third most powerful man in the military regime, is a 1965 graduate of the No. 11 intake of the Defense Services Academy. He rose through the ranks to general in 2010 and was appointed chief of general staff for the army, navy and air force.

He contested the 2010 elections with the Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) and was elected Lower House speaker by fellow lawmakers.

U Shwe Mann was purged as head of the USDP in August 2015 in a power struggle with then-President U Thein Sein.

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

However, he was appointed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to head the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission of the Union Parliament in 2016.

In spite of widespread criticism of his political maneuverings to forge ties with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of the 2015 elections, U Shwe Mann has insisted that he was not a turncoat and said the alliance was necessary for the sake of the country and its citizens.

Despite being one of the key players in the military regime that kept Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under years of house arrest, the ex-general now calls her “big sister.”

Sources close to the pair told The Irrawaddy that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi relies more on U Shwe Mann and his aides than on Religious Affairs and Culture Minister U Aung Ko and Lower House Speaker U T Khun Myat, both of whom held top positions in the USDP.

Former Major General U Ko Ko Naing, who has close ties with U Shwe Mann and serves on his parliamentary commission, said his political future was very much up in the air.

“So far, he has not said exactly what he will do and what he won’t,” he said.

Former Hsipaw Township lawmaker U Ye Htun said he thought U Shwe Mann would establish a political party because he has the financial resources to do so and enjoys some popularity with the people.

“As he knows the defects and shortcomings of the USDP, he can promise that his party would not have such defects. And if he is as good as his words, there may be a certain level of support for his political party,” said U Ye Htun.

Yangon-based journalist U Thiha Thwe said some USDP members would join U Shwe Mann if he were to in fact establish a party, but added that his relationship with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would suffer.

“The support of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is important for him. If he establishes a party, the relationship between him and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will become a party-to-party relationship. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has no policy for party-to-party relationships,” he said.

Supporters of U Shwe Mann said they were ready to help him and any party he formed.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.