Burmese Parliament Speaker and former junta member Shwe Mann, on a visit to Washington of Friday, said that he will run for the nation’s presidency if nominated by the ruling party, and would consider forming a coalition with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Shwe Mann said high-level political talks involving Aung San Suu Kyi, and chiefs of the government, army and parliament, would soon indicate whether constitutional reforms sought by the opposition leader could be expedited before parliamentary elections. The vote, due by November, is a critical point in Myanmar’s bumpy transition from five decades of direct military rule.
The US has ended two decades of diplomatic isolation of Myanmar as it has shifted to quasi-civilian rule, but it is concerned that reforms are flagging, including prospects of amending the junta-era constitution to reduce the military’s parliamentary power and to open up the presidency to Aung San Suu Kyi, currently barred because she has sons by a foreign national.
The president will be elected by the next parliament. Burmese President Thein Sein, is not expected to seek re-election, although he has not ruled out the possibility. Aung San Suu Kyi also wants to run.
As things stand, Shwe Mann is a likely front runner. He was No. 3 in the junta, and is now a senior figure in the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). He became speaker of the lower house of parliament after the last national elections in 2010, which were boycotted by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party.
“If the USDP nominated me as the presidential candidate, I will be happy to accept,” Shwe Mann told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, in comments translated from Burmese to English.
He vowed to honor the election results.
Shwe Mann is visiting the US with a Myanmar parliamentary delegation, and has met US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. He is set to meet with US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken tomorrow to discuss democratic reform.
Shwe Mann said parliament aspires to amend the constitution before the election, but called it a difficult task, requiring parliamentary approval and a national referendum. He said the pace at which that happened would depend on high-level political talks.
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