USDP Eyes 2020 Presidency

By Htet Naing Zaw 25 August 2016

Burma’s main opposition party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), has pinned its hopes on new leader Than Htay securing Burma’s top job in the 2020 election.

At a press conference on Wednesday, USDP spokesperson Khin Yi boasted that the new chairman was a versatile man and the right person to lead and reform the former ruling party.

Than Htay replaced former President Thein Sein as the party chairman on Tuesday, the second day of the party convention, which was held from August 22-24 and saw newly elected central leadership.

“Since he [Than Htay] is at the helm of the party, he will get most of the benefits and entitlements from the party,” said Khin Yi, referring to Burma’s presidency.

However, there is a talk among USDP members in Naypyidaw that former Snr-Gen Than Shwe, the founder and patron of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA)—which transformed itself into the USDP ahead of the 2010 election—told the party that he wanted to see new leadership, which led to the reshuffle.

The Irrawaddy could not independently confirm that claim.

Than Htay told reporters that he is willing to do what is best for the political, social, economic and security affairs of the country, if he can form the future government.

“Politics is something only those who have a philanthropic spirit can be involved in. Everything [a politician] does must be for the sake of the country and its people,” said Than Htay.

Despite a 2015 defeat, Than Htay insists that the USDP remains a powerful force in the country. As for the reshuffling, he said leadership was peacefully transferred through internal elections to young, capable members, from former leaders who could no longer serve due to age and health concerns.

“My plan is to win the election and gain power. By nature, victory and defeat are not permanent. You may win this time and lose next time. Our party will try to achieve certain targets in the 2020 election,” he said.

He also criticized Burma’s Parliament, saying that it was undemocratic to be dominated by a single party—referring to National League for Democracy (NLD).

When asked by The Irrawaddy about party assets and the transfer of assets when the USDA was transformed into the USDP, Khin Yi replied that the question should be directed to the person in charge of party finances.

Then Irrawaddy asked how this person could be reached. Khin Yi replied that no one had been appointed to the position yet.

“Since 2010, [those assets] have been clearly under the party’s ownership. As of now, I can’t explain it in detail. But I can assure that there was no misappropriation. All of the assets officially belong to the party,” said Than Htay.