Business tycoons gear up for 7 Nov

A number of powerful businessmen in Burma will stand as candidates for the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in elections, DVB has learnt.

The chairman of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), Win Myint, will also contest a seat in the new parliament. The UMFCCI is an influential organisation in Burma, officially non-governmental but with close ties to the ruling junta.

The USDP, which is headed by current Burmese prime minister Thein Sein, has been widely tipped to win the elections, and its chances appear good: as well as substantial financial backing that has allowed it to field vastly more candidates than any other party, the clout of a number of individual members is significant.

On top of rumours that senior government ministers, such as foreign minister Nyan Win, have joined the USDP, the addition of business tycoons is likely to strengthen its chances. The powerful Dr Khin Shwe from Zay Kabar company, which specialises in construction, has reportedly joined, as have five members of the Myanmar Construction Entrepreneurs Association (MCEA).

The junta-appointed Election Commission will tomorrow announce the list of candidates forwarded by each of the 42 parties to run in the polls, Burma’s first in two decades.

The USDP is due to field around 990 candidates, while the opposition National Democratic Force (NDF), a splinter group of the dissolved National League for Democracy (NLD), will only field 161. In contrast, the Union Democracy Party (UDP), one of the more vocal of Burma’s ‘third force’, has only put forward three, blaming candidate fees and restrictive election laws.

Foreign investment continues to pour into Burma from regional countries, particularly Thailand, Singapore and China, regardless of warnings that the investment climate there is unstable.

The owner of an unnamed construction company in Burma said that foreign investors from Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan have shown recent interest but are waiting to see how the situation unfolds after the 7 November elections

“People are only waiting for a change; to what extent it will change. They are aware that they wouldn’t gain as much as they expect however they are still holding hopes.”

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