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Mann of the people

USDP's Shwe Mann takes to the streets of Phyu to woo voters with promises of better services, on 11 September 2015. (Photo: DVB)

Burma’s parliamentary house speaker Shwe Mann launched his election campaign on Friday in the Pegu Division constituency of Phyu, where he is seeking a Lower House seat in November’s polls.

Representing the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) which controversially dismissed him from his position as chairman of the party last month, he pledged to voters in his township better access to education, health, transportation and electricity.

Speaking to residents in Kyuinn village, he urged citizens to not waste their opportunity to vote in this year’s general election, and to choose a candidate who can truly serve the interests of the country and its people.

“I will work to the best of my ability to sort out the hardships associated with the health, transportation and agriculture sectors,” he told a village meeting. “I will also work to bring in the electricity that most people still require. I will also make sure everyone gets equal assistance and that no one gets left out.”

Shwe Mann, formerly a top army officer under the previous ruling junta, retired from his military position to contest and win a seat in the 2010 elections, representing the USDP in Naypyidaw’s Zayarthiri constituency. He was subsequently appointed speaker of the Lower House and later the bicameral parliament.

He was ousted as joint-chairman of the USDP in a purge at the party’s headquarters in August this year, but retains his role as house speaker and his place on the party’s candidate list.

Also running for a Lower House seat in Phyu is opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) candidate Thein Nyunt, who said that it will be a “tough race” between Shwe Mann and himself.

“I will have to work twice as hard as he [Shwe Mann] has established a reputation and has contacts within the executive branch,” the NLD candidate said. “For us [the NLD], we just rely on the people for victory.”

Also running in the Lower House elections in Phyu Township this year are: National Unity Party’s Nan Khin Oo; Myanmar Farmers Development Party’s Nan San San Yu; National Democratic Force’s Tin Mar Win; and independent candidates Ko Ko Kyaw and Myat Nu Khine.

Shwe Mann is aiming to continue the USDP’s dominance in Phyu, where its candidate Nyunt Hlaing won in 2010 with 83,536 votes, streaks ahead of his main rivals Than Htay of the NUP with 27,842 ballots, and Tin Soe of the DPP with 6,482. However, it must be remembered that the NLD did not compete in 2010.

NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the reform-minded Shwe Mann were widely rumoured to have formed a bond over the past two years as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate sought support for constitutional amendments that would dilute the power of the military in parliament.

However, President Thein Sein grew increasingly weary and wary of the house speaker’s antics, and accused him of acting in his own personal interests rather than those of the party, before purging him as party chairman in a late-night shake-up at the party’s headquarters in Naypyidaw.

The USA and UK condemned the ruling party’s use of the country’s security forces and police in assisting the internal coup operation.

Last week, DVB published an exclusive report releasing leaked information that many in Beijing’s politburo had been anticipating an alliance between Suu Kyi and Shwe Mann to lead the country after the November elections, and were “shocked” when he was ousted from his position.

In a further revelation, it appears that many within the Chinese leadership knew at least three days ahead of Shwe’s Mann’s dismissal that he was facing the chop.