With Myanmar poised to hold its fairest general election in decades, the country remains in the dark over whom and what it will be voting for on Nov. 8. While Aung San Suu Kyi said her party will participate in the election, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is constitutionally barred from becoming president, leaving a blurred picture of what a vote for her would mean. And now the ruling party faces a potential leadership tussle between President Thein Sein and House Speaker Shwe Mann. Mr. Thein Sein, in power since the former military regime ceded control in 2011, has repeatedly hinted that he would seek a second term. On Tuesday, Zaw Htay, director of the president’s office, said Mr. Thein Sein’s “desires had not changed.” He said the president would seek a second term “if it is what the people wish.”
Mr. Thein Sein pitches himself as a more conservative, safer pair of hands than Mr. Shwe Mann, who is chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party and seen by many as its standard-bearer in the election. Mr. Shwe Mann has spent much of the past year raising his profile, with visits to Beijing and Washington, D.C., and projecting himself as someone who can quicken the pace of reform in Myanmar.
Mr. Thein Sein’s interest in extending his time in power sets up the USDP for a potentially destabilizing round of infighting as it attempts to defend its majority in parliament from Ms. Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy. The outcome might also affect the future of the president’s key allies, such as economics minister Soe Thane, who have guided reforms and helped clear the way for foreign companies to invest billions in the country.