USDP announce election candidates as ex-chair Shwe Mann says he won’t contest a seat for his new party 

The opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party has unveiled its list of candidates for November’s election, with retired generals and ex-ministers among those set to contest parliamentary seats.

Htay Oo, the former chair of the party and also a retired general, will run again for a lower house seat in Hinthada that he lost in 2015 while Aung Thaw, another ex-general, is running to represent the Coco Islands.

The party sought to emphasise the slate of new faces who appear among the 1,129 candidates, with members saying there were more women and young people in the running than last time. 

But that will do little to alter the USDP’s status as a proxy party for the military.

Also in the running is Nanda Kyaw Swa, a former brigadier general and deputy speaker, and several ex-ministers from the previous USDP-led government, which was installed by the military in a rigged election. 

Among the candidates, around 88 people are former military members, said Nan Myamya Mimi Zaw, a party spokesperson. 

The party has stood aside 27 constituencies in ethnic areas to give ethnic parties a clear run, she added. 

“In such places [ethnic parties] are stronger and will have a better performance,” she said.

She did not disclose which parties they have made pacts with.

In 2015, the NLD party contested 1,152 seats and won 886, while the USDP contested 1,151 and won 117.

Former USDP chair and ex-general Shwe Mann, who was ousted from the USDP shortly before the 2015 election, has announced he will not be contesting a seat for his newly formed Union Betterment Party (UBP).

He said he was stepping aside because other party candidates now have strong prospects so he can instead use his energy to help the party win more seats elsewhere. 

He had been considering contesting a seat in Phyu, the same place he lost his bid running as an independent after his ouster in 2015. 

“My decision not to contest is not because of concern [about losing],” he told an online press conference. “I made this decision righteously and bravely.”

But political analyst  Dr Yan Myo Thein said: “The main reason is that he can’t win.” 

UBP Party’s Chairman Thura Shwe Mann (Photo – Sai Zaw/Myanmar Now)

The UBP party has branches in 261 townships throughout the country and has plans to contest 260 seats in the Pyithu Hluttaw, 139 seats in the Amyotha Hluttaw, and 503 seats in State and Regional Hluttaws. 

It also plans to fight for 25 seats that carry the role of ethnic affairs ministers in different regions and states, meaning it is contesting a total of 927 seats.

The party will spend billions of kyat on campaigning, with the money raised from donations and party supporters. 

Last month Shwe Mann told Myanmar Now that he thought this year it would not be possible for any party to win in a landslide the way the NLD did in 2015.

Political analyst and author Maung Maung Soe said he disagreed with public speculation that Shwe Mann was stepping back in the hope that State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi may give him a senior role in the next government. 

“I don’t know exactly the relation between them now, but we can see the gap between them if we look back at how the Hluttaw has dissolved his commission.”

In February last year NLD MPs voted to scrap the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission, chaired by Shwe Mann, following his decision to form the UBP.

Kyaw San, a UBP candidate vying for a seat in Bago’s regional parliament, said Shwe Mann had done the right thing.

“It is a better choice. He can now lead the whole party in nationwide campaigns. We have the potential to win many seats,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Thaw Zin Myo)

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