USDP Sets Sights On 2020 Comeback

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 25 May 2016

RANGOON —  Chairman of Burma’s previous ruling party, Thein Sein, urged the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) to reform in order to win the election in 2020—a clear statement that the USDP is trying to make a comeback after a humiliating election defeat at the hands of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) last year.

“Despite the many reasons [for our loss], the main cause is weakness in the party’s central and lower levels. We all have to collaborate to review those weaknesses and reform the party to achieve success in the next election,” said the former Burmese president during his meeting with more than 500 party members in Rangoon on Monday, according to the party’s mouthpiece, The Union Daily.

Thein Sein left office in late March when he handed over power to President Htin Kyaw of the NLD government. The USDP, mostly made up of high-ranking former army officers, contested seats in more than 1,000 constituencies but only won 116.

After five years in the presidency, Thein Sein returned to the daily business of party politics in late April.

“I feel responsible for the loss. At same time I feel I have to help [the party] win again. That’s why I am back talking to party [members],” said the ex-general.

The 71-year-old said the loss in the election could be blamed on the people responsible for carrying out the USDP’s platform, arguing, “Since our policies are suited for the past, present and future, we only have to improve [the party members’ implementation ability].”

Starting earlier this month, village- and quarter-level USDP branches across the country have selected new committee members and have held conferences prior to the higher level gatherings and the Central Committee meeting scheduled for July or August, when the party’s top members are expected to be reshuffled, according to sources close to the USDP.

On Tuesday, Thein Sein also had a meeting with Union-level ministers who served during his term. The attendants included peace broker Aung Min, President’s Office Minister Soe Thane, Immigration Minister Khin Ye and Livestock and Irrigation Minister Ohn Myint.

Ohn Myint wrote on his Facebook page that during the meeting, Thein Sein implored party members “to shape the USDP into a party the people love.”

But not everyone is convinced.

Rangoon-based political commentator Yan Myo Thein said, “Thein Sein is daydreaming.”

He added that the USDP expects to gain votes if Htin Kyaw’s government, which they assume is inexperienced, fails to meet the people’s expectations.

“What they don’t understand is people are already tired of them. At the same time, the NLD still gets strong popular support,” Yan Myo Thein said.