YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar’s President Thein Sein has not ruled out a second term as the country’s leader, a senior official from his office said on Tuesday, clarifying an earlier statement about the president’s political future.
Myanmar is preparing for an historic election set for Nov. 8, a poll that is seen as a test of the Southeast Asian nation’s transition towards democracy after decades of military rule ended in 2011.
An official from the president’s office said on Monday that Thein Sein, who served as a general and then prime minister under the junta and took office in 2011, would not run in the November polls due to health concerns. The official cited a letter sent to parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann.
However, Zaw Htay, a senior official from the president’s office, said on Tuesday that Thein Sein remained undecided.
“The president has not publicly ruled out running in the election or trying for the presidency for a second term,” Zaw Htay said.
“What he has publicly said several times earlier is he will decide matters concerning the second term depending on the people’s desires and the political situation of the country,” he said. Thein Sein was expected to make a public announcement about his decision soon, Zaw Htay said.
Even if he is not elected as a member of parliament or chooses not to contest the election, Thein Sein could still be nominated as president by members of parliament.
Under Myanmar’s military constitution, presidential candidates do not need to be legislators.
The November vote, which is expected to be watched by Western observers, will decide three-quarters of parliamentary seats, with a quarter reserved for unelected military MPs.
Three candidates for president will be nominated from the newly formed parliament, including from the elected upper house, lower house and by military appointees of both chambers.
All lawmakers then vote for a president, with the candidate with the most votes taking office. The other two nominees serve as vice presidents.
The last election in Myanmar, also known as Burma, was held under military rule in 2010.
Writing by Tim Mclaughlin; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Paul Tait