NAYPYIDAW: The leader of Myanmar’s ruling party has been removed from his post, an official said Thursday, after a shock police raid on party headquarters that laid bare a power struggle among the country’s key political players ahead of elections.
The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has been gripped by in-fighting in the run up to the November polls — billed as the freest and fairest for decades in the former-junta ruled nation.
After a night of high political drama that saw security forces enter the USDP base in Naypyidaw, Shwe Mann — who is also the parliamentary speaker — appeared to be the main target of a swift and decisive power play.
Recent months have seen intensifying rumors of animosity between Shwe Mann and President Thein Sein, both former generals who shed their uniforms to play central roles in Myanmar’s reforms.
Thein Sein agreed to Shwe Mann’s removal from his party role, Zaw Htay of the President’s Office told AFP.
“This is just a party leadership affair, there is no reason to worry,” he said, countering rumors Shwe Mann had been arrested.
The government was working “to stabilize public order,” he added, without giving details.
Earlier, Shwe Mann’s son told AFP “so-called guards,” following the police raid late Wednesday, had surrounded his father’s house in the capital.
“It is strange that armed forces have restricted a political party in this way,” Toe Naing Mann added, saying he was monitoring the situation through contacts from Yangon.
About half a dozen police remained at the gate of the party’s vast headquarters, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
The surprise move comes a day before the deadline for candidates to register to contest the upcoming polls.
There were also signs that Shwe Mann was reluctant to support candidates loyal to the president and had not accepted some recently retired soldiers put forward by the powerful army.
Political tensions are seething ahead of the November 8 polls.