Thura U Shwe Mann, speaker of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and chairman of the Pyithu Hluttaw, met the farmers recently during tours to Magwe, Sagaing, Ayeyarwaddy, Thanintharyi, Yangon, Bago and Mandalay. Thura U Shwe Mann is chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party and viewed as a potential presidential contender.
Some political party leaders are critical of politicians taking unfair advantage in the lead up to the national elections planned for near the end of this year.
U Khin Maung Swe, chairman of National Democratic Force party, said: “[Thura U Shwe Mann’s] meetings with local farmers across the country were a form of intentional party campaigning. The [opposition] National League for Democracy is also using photos of Bogyoke Aung San as their trademark icon in their campaign.”
He also criticized the Union Election Commission for “turning a blind eye” to these moves.
U Tun Ye, spokesperson of the National Unity Party, said: “Even though other political parties do not officially complain about such campaigns, they should consider the nature of their unlawful activities. The rules and disciplines should be laid out clearly in order to take action against such activities.”
Union Election Commission chairman U Tin Aye told political parties on December 14 that if any political party breaches a law, a complaint can be made to the commission.
U Tun Tun Hein, Central Executive Committee member of the NLD, said: “It can be assumed that Thura U Shwe Mann is meeting with farmers for a political campaign. Such campaigning can be conducted by those in authority.”
A senior member of the ruling party told Mizzima that the costs for these meetings were covered by the use of funds from the USDP’s regional and state offices, insisting that such meetings will be held in other areas.
These public meetings were broadcast on state-owned media.
During the meeting in December, political party representatives urged the UEC chairman to monitor and scrutinize state funds and property to make sure they are not used in party campaigns.
U Tin Aye, however, appeared unable to commit to doing so.