It’s no secret that Thura U Shwe Mann has long coveted the presidency. Recent comments show his ambition to assume the nation’s top job remains intact, despite a difficult few months.
Despite his dramatic ouster as chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party in August, Thura U Shwe Mann’s well-known ambition to become president remains undiminished.
“One must have political ambitions,” he told a news conference at Kanyutkwin, his home town in Bago Region, on October 31. Although no longer the USDP’s chair, Thura U Shwe Mann remains a party member and is campaigning on its ticket for the Pyithu Hluttaw seat of Phyu. He has not shed his presidential ambitions. “If they ask me, I am ready,” the House Speaker told journalists. “If they don’t choose me, I will not be sorry.”
Thura U Shwe Mann’s ouster as USDP chairman came after he antagonised the Tatmadaw leadership by allying himself with opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and allowing a failed attempt in parliament to weaken the effective veto of military MPs over constitutional reform.
There has also been speculation that the ouster of Thura U Shwe Mann was part of a carefully-planned military manoeuvre to position him as the leading candidate for the presidency should the National League for Democracy win the November 8 election in a landslide. Under the 2008 Constitution, NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is not eligible to contest the presidency because she was married to a foreigner; her late husband and two sons are foreign.
“I have an agreement with the NLD that each party tries to win the election, but after the election the NLD and USDP will cooperate for the interests of the people and the nation,” Thura U Shwe Mann said.
“National unity and reconciliation is essential,” he told journalists. “The Tatmadaw plays a key role in that aspect.”
A career military officer who rose to be Number 3 in the former ruling junta, Thura U Shwe Mann says that while in the Tatmadaw he followed democratic practices by encouraging junior officers to voice complaints at talk sessions.
“I sought the advice and the opinion of my junior officers, so I had success in my military operations because of my democratic practices; democracy is not strange to me,” he said.
Another point of contention between Thura U Shwe Mann and his rivals in the USDP was said to be over his “manifesto” for continuing the reform process on which the party’s election platform was to be based.
When he was still party chair, Thura U Shwe Mann is reported to have formed a team that drafted a 177-page manifesto that proposed wide-ranging reforms in all main policy areas. Other more contentious reforms were said to be under consideration, including changing the structure of the Myanmar Police Force to make it more independent from the Tatmadaw. The manifesto is reported to have been based on surveys taken by Thura U Shwe Mann’s team that found the USDP was heading for a crushing defeat in the election, in a worst-case scenario winning only 16 seats.
The USDP never issued a replacement manifesto, which will enable Thura U Shwe Mann to distance himself from the election should it result in a landslide defeat for the ruling party.
“I’m not so sure about the present strategy of the USDP,” he told journalists. “We can only wait and see the ending on the silver screen.”
Regardless of the election result, Thura U Shwe Mann said he has no plan to leave the USDP. “The party has good policies and a noble goal. To achieve this goal we need to cooperate with everybody for the benefit