YANGON • Myanmar's ruling party yesterday admitted it was facing big losses in a general election likely to be swept by Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party, as tensions mount between its leader and the powerful army.
The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the semi-civilian reincarnation of the previous junta, which is packed with former soldiers, won a landslide victory in dubious 2010 elections when it ran virtually unopposed, with Ms Suu Kyi still under house arrest and her party boycotting the polls.
But a sense of pessimism is settling in ahead of the Nov 8 polls. "We don't expect a winning result like in 2010. It's impossible," USDP general secretary Maung Maung Thein said at an event announcing Yangon regional candidates.
The admission comes as relations sour dramatically between the still powerful army and USDP's influential leader and parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann, who is widely considered a presidential hopeful.
He has faced opposition from soldiers in his constituency over his readiness to support Ms Suu Kyi in her efforts to change the Constitution, which bars the opposition leader from the top political office.
NO REPEAT OF 2010
We don't expect a winning result like in 2010. It's impossible.
MR MAUNG MAUNG THEIN, USDP general secretary
But the former junta No. 3 posted comments on his official Facebook page insisting he acted "in the interest of the country" and suggested he was ready to defy both the army and President Thein Sein.
Recalling an interview when he was asked if he would stand with Ms Suu Kyi against the President and the army chief, he said it would be more exact to say he was with Ms Suu Kyi and "the people".
The soldiers' hostility to Mr Shwe Mann has cast doubts over the political allegiances between the ruling party and the military that spawned it, heightening uncertainty ahead of the general election.
Myanmar began emerging from military rule after the 2010 polls with a government led by Mr Thein Sein, which has introduced political and economic reforms that have cracked open decades of isolation and sparked an investment rush in the resource-rich nation.
But Ms Suu Kyi, who entered Parliament in 2012, has said reforms have stalled, with activists locked up and press freedoms curtailed.
The military, which has a quarter of the seats in the legislature, has staunchly refused to countenance a reduction of its political role. Last month, it voted down a raft of charter change draft Bills, including one that would have removed its veto on constitutional amendment.