USDP seeking to make comeback in 2020 elections

Leaders of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which lost seats in the 2015 general election, say they are overhauling the party to regain their standing in 2020.

The USDP was defeated by the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and has been serving as the opposition and counterweight to the ruling government since then.

It has frequently criticised the NLD for enacting the State Counsellor Law, failing to maintain the National Defence and Security Council, forming new government bodies, and paying too much attention to human rights. It said the NLD has damaged the state, and the economic and social sectors are worse off than when the USDP was in power.

A spokesman for the party said it is working on increasing its membership in preparation for the election and practising for a smooth transition of power should it win.

“The USDP winning the 2020 election is important not only for our party but also for the people. Today, the NLD leads the government although it is not ready. It doesn’t have the necessary experience,” said USDP spokesman U Nandar Hla Myint.

The USDP won 883 seats in the 1154 constituencies in which it fielded candidates in the 2010 general election, but only one of its 48 candidates won in the 2012 by-election.

The party won 117 seats in the 1151 constituencies it contested in the 2015 election, and it won two seats in the 13 constituencies it contested in last year’s by-election.

According to its leaders, infighting and rumours led to the party’s downfall. The 2015 results were “unexpected” and “shook us”, wrote former USDP leader Thura U Shwe Mann in his book He, Me and Myanmar Politics.

After the 2012 by-election, attempts were made to improve party unity, but some of its leaders threatened to resign if their demands were not met and there were coups within the party, said the book.

Among the reasons cited for the loss of the 2015 election, was the selection of an inauspicious polling day, states the book New Democracy State and President U Thein Sein, written by former minister and party member U Soe Thein.

He wrote that former President U Thein Sein and Minister U Aung Min fixed November 8 for the election, but they tried unsuccessfully to change the date later.

Also, a month before the election, U Thein Sein and the party chair received projections from party headquarters in Nay Pyi Taw that the USDP would win the election with 260 seats. This lulled the party into a false sense of security, U Soe Thein wrote in his book, adding that lessons have to be learnt in order to shake off the habit of unrealistic reporting. The book also revealed that there were disputes over the selection of candidates.

One party member said that although they have been working hard for the people, the media does not report enough about their efforts.

“We will keep working for the people, and we are in a position to do well in the next election. More people realise we are not corrupt and have been working hard for their sake,” said U Soe Min Than, head of the party’s Pazundaung township branch in Yangon.

Democratic reforms were put in place when U Thein Sein took office, but the USDP government didn’t have much success because the opposition urged the people to take to the streets in protest, U Nandar Hla Myint said.

For the next election, the USDP is striving to increase its membership and focus on being an effective opposition party that gives voice to the public’s concerns.

Some two million members under the age of 35 have been recruited nationwide to serve on township and regional executive committees, said party officials.

The policies of the party central executive committee include supporting law and order, ensuring freedom of religion, helping civil servants live with dignity, helping farmers earn more, and reviewing projects carried out with international organisations that may hurt national prosperity.

In July, USDP officials met with more than 20 Yangon-based political parties at Ywarma Monastery in Insein township to discuss Myanmar’s future and the 2020 election.

“People are concerned about stability, national identity, religion, the economy, so the USDP will address these issues,” U Nandar Hla Myint said.

It will contest 10 seats of the 13 up for election in the November by-election.

If elected, the USDP will focus on the economy, law and order, and restoring the country’s prestige, while ensuring freedom of faith and residence, he said.

The party received over seven million votes in 2015 and has over five million members. Membership has increased by 100,000 since 2015 because of dissatisfaction over the economy, he said.

Despite this, people are not necessarily eager to abandon the NLD to vote for the USDP in 2020.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s government alone is not to be blamed for the problems with the economy and living conditions. There are other issues in the country as well. In the next election, I will vote for her because I didn’t like the previous government,” said U Aung Kyi, a member of the Kyauktada township development committee.

The USDP seems to be gaining political ground after meeting with small parties, said U Khin Maung Swe, chair of the National Democratic Force party.

“The USDP has many retired generals. Though they work their separate jobs, they combine in the parliament. That should not be underestimated. They need to work to be dependable for the people. Promises like roads and bridges alone will not do,” he said.


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