RANGOON — Burma’s main opposition party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), elected a new leadership on Tuesday, in which ex-military officers predominate.
Ex-President U Thein Sein has been replaced as chairman by U Than Htay, a retired brigadier-general and former minister of rail transport and of energy.
On the second day of the party convention, held at the USDP’s headquarters in Naypyidaw, Ohn Myint, a former minister of livestock, fisheries and rural development and a senior member of the USDP, posted details of the reshuffle on his Facebook page.
He said the party had also selected a new general secretary, five secretaries, a disciplinary officer and an operations in-charge, as well as new leaders in all state and divisional branches.
Party spokesperson U Khin Yi confirmed to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that U Than Htay had been elected as chairman, and former air force commander U Myat Hein as vice chairman. The latter had previously served as a minister of communication and information technology. Both resigned from their ministerial posts to enter the 2015 general election as USDP candidates.
U Khin Yi said that U Thein Sein would continue to “supervise” the party as its chief “patron.” Other members of the party’s nine-member central “patrons committee” include former party vice-chairman U Htay Oo and former Upper House speaker U Khin Aung Myint.
“We elected all positions. It proves the transition that has taken place inside the party,” said U Khin Yi, who was selected as the party’s disciplinary officer. He had previously been a minister of immigration and population.
Former chairman U Thein Sein addressed the opening of the party convention on Monday, urging his party members not to dwell on their humiliating electoral defeat in the 2015 general election, but look positively to the future.
“In democracies around the world, no party wins every time,” U Thein Sein said.
“Political parties across the world continually try to broaden their horizons in political, social, economic and administrative affairs and prepare themselves for the day the people elect and assign duties to them. Our party has to make similar preparations,” he said.
He stressed the need to build up the USDP as a “people’s party,” and called on party members to maintain contact with the people, listening to their voices and resolving their difficulties.
Shorty after the announcement of the party’s new leadership went viral on social media, U Shwe Mann—who had been ousted as USDP chairman in an internal party coup in August last year, and now serves as chairman of Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission—congratulated the new chairman.
“I believe the party, the party’s chairman, vice chairman, general secretary and central executive committee will work for the sake of the public and the nation,” he wrote on Facebook.
The USDP was created in 2010 out of the Union Solidarity and Development Association, a mass organization founded in 1993 under the military junta. It won the 2010 general election, which was widely considered fraudulent, and dominated Burmese politics up till the handover of power to the National League for Democracy this year.