Burma’s prime minister, who earlier this week quit his military post, has applied to form a new party ahead of controversial elections this year.
“Prime minister Thein Sein will lead the Union Solidarity and Development Party,” a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Some other ministers are also involved in the party, including agriculture minister Htay Oo and industry minister Aung Thaung, the official said.
He stepped down from his military post on Monday, state media reported, along with 22 other senior ministers. Analysts predicted then that the move would pre-empt the formation of a party to contest Burma’s first elections in 20 years.
The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) sounds eerily similar to the government proxy organisation, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), which had been billed to play a leading role in Burmese politics following the elections.
The USDP is reported to have 27 members in total, with Thein Sein at the helm. The spokesperson for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, Nyan Win, said that it was unclear whether the new party was a spin-off of the USDA.
He added that the appointment of Thein Sein as the party head was in “clear violation of the Political Parties Registration Law which states that civil servants cannot take part in political parties”.
“The prime minister position is the highest ranking civil servant. If the party leader U Thein Sein is really the prime minister Thein Sein, then this is against the law.”
The New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported that 25 organisations have applied to form political parties over the past month. So far 12 of those have been cleared to campaign, while the rest are being scrutinised, the paper said.
Critics charge that the elections will lack credibility because of laws that effectively bar opposition leader and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi from taking part. The NLD announced last month that it would be boycotting the polls, meaning that the incumbent will face little strong opposition.