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Reformist ex-general eyes Myanmar presidency

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Myanmar's influential parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann has announced he will run for president in the fast reforming nation in 2015 polls, according to a report, joining opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as the only declared candidates so far.

Former general Shwe Mann, a key architect of reforms since the end of the junta in 2011, has long been tipped for a tilt at the nation's top office -- currently held by Thein Sein.

"I will run for president because it is the key post to work for the betterment of the country and the people's interest," he told Radio Free Asia's Myanmar service during a visit to Washington on Monday, according to a report on their website.

"If there were a position higher than or more important than the president, I would want that post," the ambitious lower house speaker said.

Incumbent Thein Sein is yet to indicate if he will stand in the 2015 polls, anticipated be a milestone in Myanmar's transformation from an authoritarian nation to democracy.

Suu Kyi last week said she would run for president, although the existing military-drafted constitution bars her from the office.

"I want to run for president and I'm quite frank about it," the veteran democracy activist told delegates at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia in the capital Naypyidaw.

"If I pretended that I didn't want to be president I wouldn't be honest."

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party swept by-elections in 2011, causing soul-searching among the army-linked ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party of Thein Sein and Shwe Mann with general elections edging closer.

Shwe Mann told RFA that Myanmar's parliament will soon establish a commission to review the constitution, and will abide by its recommendations, including any that say Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi should be allowed to run for president.

"If the commission submits proposals, including the possibility of Daw (honorific) Aung San Suu Kyi being able to contest as president, then parliament will support work on it," Shwe Mann said.

Although Shwe Mann was more senior than Thein Sein under the former junta, he had to settle for the post of speaker of the lower house of parliament under the new quasi-civilian government.

The role nevertheless made him one of the highest profile figures in the new regime.

He is credited by MPs with helping to foster political debate in a parliament that critics derided as toothless when it opened in January 2011.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130611/reformist-ex-general-eyes-myanmar-presidency