Myanmar presidential race heats up

Myanmar presidential race heats up
China's President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with speaker of Myanmar's Lower House of Parliament Thura Shwe Mann, during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, April 27, 2015.

YANGON - In an upbeat tour of China and the US in recent days, Myanmar Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann made every effort to look and sound presidential.

Ditching his usual longyi, or sarong, for a sharp Western suit, Shwe Mann told a gathering at a US think tank that "if the USDP nominates me as presidential candidate, I am happy to accept."

Shwe Mann, who also chairs the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, first spoke of his presidential ambitions almost two years ago. Now, six months before national elections, the former No. 3 in Myanmar's previous military junta is among a handful of contenders jostling for position as the race for the presidency kicks into gear.

So Suu me

Incumbent President Thein Sein, in office since early 2011, has not said directly whether he wants a second term. But in a monthly radio address broadcast May 4, Thein Sein, also of the USDP, seemed to hint he would not seek a presidential nomination after the 2015 general elections expected in November.

"My government's objective is to leave a foundation for the next government to build on," Thein Sein said, referring to Myanmar's attempts to forge a peace agreement with ethnic minorities before the elections.

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