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Burma’s ruling party will elect new leaders next month, its general-secretary said Tuesday, amid pressure to remain relevant as it prepares to take on the huge popularity of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2015 polls.
The army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is expected to fill a vacuum at leadership level at its party conference next month, as it looks to beef up its electoral appeal after being trounced in April by-elections by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
“The main thing is to organise our party to be stronger,” USDP general-secretary and lower house MP Htay Oo told AFP, adding that the 11 October conference would also put in place a party hierarchy.
The assembly is expected to elect a new chairman, a post which has remained vacant since Thein Sein stepped down from the role in 2011 to become Burma’s president, ushering in a period of dramatic reform after decades of outright military rule.
Analysts say Thein Sein and lower house speaker Shwe Mann, who is currently vice-chairman, are locked in a power struggle, with the latter widely considered the leading candidate for the presidency after the 2015 elections.
The relationship between the pair, both former generals, is believed to have soured after Thein Sein was appointed president while Shwe Mann, who was more senior under the previous regime, took the lesser role of speaker.
Thein Sein is currently in the US to attend the United Nations General Assembly and is expected to outline plans for the future of his nation during his first trip to the US since taking power.
The president and other former military top brass shed their uniforms for a controversial 2010 general election that was marred by the absence of Suu Kyi and her party.
The democracy icon has since entered parliament after a resounding by-election win that saw her party take 43 of the 44 constituencies it contested.