YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) said on Wednesday it had not expelled ousted party chairman and parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann following reports and social media chatter it had dumped him four days before an election.
Shwe Mann was dramatically removed as the chairman of the USDP in August during a late night party reshuffle in which security forces surrounded party headquarters in the capital of Naypyitaw.
Shwe Mann, a former general, antagonized some members of the USDP and military, in part by building ties with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and backing her campaign to change the constitution.
His ties with Suu Kyi has led to speculation he could be a presidential contender if, as expected, her party dominates the new parliament that will emerge from Sunday’s vote and will elect a president next year.
“There have been posts on Facebook saying that the Central Executive Committee (CEC) had expelled Thura U Shwe Mann from the party after holding a meeting in the evening of November 3,” the party said in a statement.
“The CEC did not hold any meeting on November 3 ... The posts spreading on the Internet are just rumors and we would like to request that writing and spreading of these posts be stopped.”
Kyaw Thura, a public relations officer at USDP headquarters in Naypyitaw, confirmed that Shwe Mann was still a member of the party.
Shwe Mann has spent the past weeks campaigning in the town of Phyu, 215 km (135 miles) north of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, where he is standing as a lower house candidate.
He has been openly critical of the USDP in recent speeches, saying there was no democracy in the party and he expressed reservations about its ability to build democracy in the country that emerged from 49 years of direct military rule with a semi-civilian government in 2011.
Writing by Timothy McLaughin; Editing by Robert Birsel