A senior member of parliament from Burma’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party on Thursday dismissed a report that President Thein Sein has vacated the top party post for parliament speaker Shwe Mann.
Lawmaker Hla Swe also said that the powerful USDP will have to consider the country’s best interests when examining any amendment to the constitution that would pave the way for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to contest the 2015 presidential election.
The USDP’s newly launched Union Daily reported Thursday that Thein Sein had resigned as chairman of the party and been replaced by his main rival Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, the party’s vice chairman.
But Hla Swe, a former colonel and an Upper House MP from Magway division, dismissed the report, saying Thein Sein remains chairman although Shwe Mann has taken over the administrative duties of running the party.
“The person in the party chairman post remains the same as before, President Thein Sein,” he told RFA’s Burmese Service on the sidelines of the party’s youth conference Thursday.
“But he is unable to handle the responsibilities of the chairman, so the vice chairman has been taking over these duties,” he said.
Thein Sein, a former military general, has spearheaded many long-hoped-for reforms in Burma since taking office in March 2011 after landmark elections the year before.
Under the previous military regime, Thein Sein was junior to Shwe Mann, who was the junta’s third-in-command and is now a major campaigner for reforms.
Thein Sein has left open the possibility of serving another term in office after the 2015 elections, in which the USDP will face off against Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
But under Burma’s constitution, written in 2008 under the former military junta, Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency on the grounds that her sons possess foreign citizenship and her late husband was a foreigner, though her party has sought to revise the charter to let her run.
Asked whether the USDP—which holds a majority in parliament and under the constitution is guaranteed a quarter of the seats—would support amending the constitution to allow her to run if the people wished it, Hla Swe said all members of parliament should consider the issue.
“If it is important for the country, we shouldn’t think about the party’s interest,” he said.
“MPs shouldn’t think about only their own party when they have to think about something for their country. Our vice chairman U [honorific] Shwe Mann has also spoken along these lines.”
The USDP, the successor party to the Burmese military’s Union Solidarity and Development Association, won three quarters of the seats in parliament in the last general election in November 2010, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) boycotted.
But in April 2012 by-elections, the NLD won 43 out of 44 seats it contested, making it the largest opposition party in parliament and ushering into office the longtime democracy leader who had spent most of the past two decades under house arrest under the former military junta.
Aung San Suu Kyi has said that she would be willing to lead the country as president and that her party will work to amend laws that block her from leading the government.
Reported by Kyaw Kyaw Aung for RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.