USDP aids for Au­gust 20 party con­ven­tion

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

LIFE on the side­lines is not suit­ing the for­mer rul­ing party. Af­ter months of strug­gling with its much-di­min­ished politi­cal role and watch­ing for­mer op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers steer the gov­ern­ment, the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party is look­ing to buff its rep­u­ta­tion and re­boot its im­age at a party con­fer­ence later this month.

The USDP has been aim­ing to re­group, and jointly re­launch its next politi­cal chap­ter with a con­ven­tion held at party head­quar­ters, but the gath­er­ing has been re­peat­edly de­layed. Ini­tially, the post­pone­ment was at­trib­uted to wait­ing for U Thein Sein to be able to re­as­sume chair­ing the party af­ter hand­ing over the pres­i­den­tial of­fice.

The party was then rent with in­ter­nal di­vi­sions, and a purge of for­mer high-level mem­bers loyal to ex-Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann.

Last week, dur­ing a meet­ing at the party’s Yangon of­fice, U Htay Oo said the USDP is fi­nally set­tling on a likely date in the third week of Au­gust.

“I think we will have our party con­fer­ence around Au­gust 20,” he told re­porters.

The party congress is widely an­tic­i­pated to set off the re­forms that will re­build the party with young re­cruits, with an eye to­ward a come­back in the 2020 elec­tion.

Fol­low­ing a near eclipse at the ballot box last November, with vot­ers es­chew­ing the old guard in place of the Na­tional League for Democ­racy’s prom­ise for “change”, the USDP is aware of the need for a sig­nif­i­cant over­haul, but ap­pears to be at a loss over how to re­cast it­self.

No longer in con­trol of the par­lia­men­tary agenda, the USDP has failed to re-es­tab­lish its voice, or to even pro­vide checks and bal­ances on the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion.

For­mer law­maker U Htay Oo ac­knowl­edged that the for­mer rul­ing party MPs are not thriv­ing in their new­found roles.

“We do not have a pol­icy to be an op­po­si­tion,” the USDP vice chair said.

An in­ter­nal party re­port glossed the chal­lenges and power strug­gles fac­ing the USDP as “weak­nesses in build­ing unity, in so­lid­i­fy­ing the party strength, in per­suad­ing vot­ers to vote for the party, in mak­ing peo­ple un­der­stand what the party has done for the lo­cal de­vel­op­ment”.

These is­sues, the re­port said, “are the main rea­son for our elec­tion loss”, though the per­ceived “bias of the me­dia” also al­legedly did not help.

Seek­ing to end the seis­mic rifts within the party, and to end the du­el­ing poles of au­thor­ity, U Thein Sein set about purg­ing mem­bers whose loy­alty he found lack­ing soon af­ter he re­as­sumed the party reins. Seven­teen USDP mem­bers, in­clud­ing Thura U Shwe Mann, were sacked in April.

The ex­pelled mem­bers fought back, stag­ing a press con­fer­ence at the end of May in which they termed the for­mer pres­i­dent’s ac­tions “dic­ta­to­rial”, and de­manded jus­tice, as well as a full ex­pla­na­tion for the ex­pul­sions. But for all their hol­ler­ing, the ousted mem­bers have yet to see much trac­tion among their for­mer USDP peers.

Asked how the party plans to re­spond to the de­mands of the for­mer Speaker and his al­lies, U Htay Oo de­clined to di­rectly ad­dress the ques­tion.

In­stead, he said, “Our party is built on the mu­tual trust among its mem­bers. If a per­son in­side the party no longer trusts the party, he au­to­mat­i­cally loses his mem­ber­ship. Also if the party does not trust them, they lose their mem­ber­ship,” he said.

“Whether an in­di­vid­ual trusts his party or not can only be proved by the way they act,” he added.

Ac­cord­ing to the party re­port, USDP mem­bers must all sub­scribe to the cen­tral ten­ant of pur­su­ing “na­tional pol­i­tics”, a prin­ci­pal re­flected in the 2008 con­sti­tu­tion which en­shrines the Tat­madaw’s role in pol­i­tics. The USDP has long been seen as a politi­cal ve­hi­cle for the Tat­madaw. Align­ment with the mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment was one of sev­eral fac­tors per­ceived as split­ting the Thura U Shwe Mann and U Thein Sein camps.

But it does not ap­pear likely that U Shwe Mann and his al­lies will be in­vited to party head­quar­ters in Nay Pyi Taw for the com­ing con­fer­ence.

The USDP is al­ready mov­ing ahead with a re­cast­ing of se­nior lead­er­ship roles af­ter drop­ping those it found no longer de­sir­able.

The re­gion/state party com­mit­tees and re­serve com­mit­tees have al­ready been re­placed, with new mem­bers hav­ing taken their oaths.

The party’s con­fer­ence will se­lect the state and re­gion chairs, as well as sec­re­taries. The can­di­dates nom­i­nated by the re­gion or state party branches, the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, and the town­ship party of­fices will be vet­ted, nar­rowed to three short­listed op­tions, and then cho­sen at the party’s con­fer­ence.

At an Au­gust 5 as­sem­bly, the Yangon of­fice put for­ward its nom­i­na­tions for the re­gion chair, a po­si­tion which has been va­cant since U Myint Swe was ap­pointed as first vice pres­i­dent. The pres­i­dent and vice pres­i­dents are con­sti­tu­tion­ally barred from par­tic­i­pat­ing in party ac­tiv­i­ties. For­mer min­is­ter for elec­tric power U Khin Maung Soe has been named as one of the three can­di­dates to take over the Yangon branch.

At the Au­gust 5 meet­ing in Yangon, mem­bers also pre­sented pa­pers, try­ing their hand at re­con­sti­tut­ing some of the party’s poli­cies and plat­forms.

Of the four re­search pa­pers read at the Yangon meet­ing, one ar­gued that the 2008 con­sti­tu­tion should be amended to adopt a politi­cal sys­tem based around a fed­eral demo­cratic Union. In his inau­gu­ral speech, Pres­i­dent U Htin Kyaw of­fi­cially told the coun­try that his gov­ern­ment will pri­ori­tise re­form­ing the con­sti­tu­tion to guar­an­tee a fed­eral Union.

U Htay Oo said the politi­cal sys­tem should be based on two prin­ci­ples: the struc­ture of the na­tion and the de­lin­eation of gov­ern­ment pow­ers.

“For power shar­ing, we should ex­am­ine the ex­tent to which states and re­gions are con­trolled by the cen­tralised gov­ern­ment or are in­de­pen­dent,” he said.

An­other pa­per pre­sented at the USDP gath­er­ing crit­i­cised the cur­rent peace ini­tia­tives and ar­gued that the first priority should be con­vinc­ing the eth­nic armed groups to agree to a cease­fire and to sur­ren­der their weapons.

U Htay Oo em­pha­sised that the pa­pers sub­mit­ted rep­re­sent the per­spec­tives and ideas of in­di­vid­u­als, and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the stance of the party.

Such de­bate of pol­icy points is be­ing en­cour­aged how­ever, as the party eyes a re­vamp. The USDP has an­nounced plans to launch a think tank headed by for­mer min­is­ters U Soe Thein and U Aung Min, and has also held me­dia train­ing, teach­ing mem­bers on how to bet­ter in­ter­act with the press corps.

When he re­sumed head­ing the party in May, U Thein Sein vowed to iden­tify and oblit­er­ate weak­nesses within the party, and to re­assert the USDP to its for­mer promi­nence.

“We have to co­op­er­ate to win the next elec­tion by ex­am­in­ing these weak­nesses and re­form­ing the party,” he said.

Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing

U Htay Oo (left), vice chair of the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party, takes part in a party meet­ing at the Yangon Re­gion of­fice on Au­gust 5.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.