President Thein Sein said this weekend Burma’s government-backed party would face a “neck-and-neck” fight from opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) in the crucial 2015 elections.
He told Radio Free Asia that unlike the 2010 polls, when his Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) swept nearly 80 per cent or 883 seats out of the 1,154 electoral seats that were up for grabs, the elections in three years time will be very different.
“Back in 2010, USDP hardly had a rival as it was the strongest one,” Thein Sein told RFA's Burmese service on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, which he is attending.
“It [USDP] has been organizing for many years, and had a good foundation then. But later, the NLD came in and it also has a certain amount of supporters. So in 2015, both have to compete neck-and-neck and have to try hard, that's what I see,” the former military general said.
The USDP benefited from the NLD boycott of the 2010 elections when the party was legally banned as a result.
However, since then the NLD re-registered itself and swept 43 of the 44 seats up for grabs in the April by-elections, becoming the biggest opposition party in the military-dominated Parliament. Since then, it has been conducting a member recruitment drive with a goal of more than 1 million members throughout the country.
Four of the new NLD seats were in Naypyitaw, the country's capital and home to the military and government.
On Thursday, Thein Sein said in reply to a question at a forum in New York City that he might consider serving another term in office if the country and people want him to do so.
“If I have my way, I will only serve one term,” he said, according to news agency reports.
“But of course the future of the position depends on the needs of the country and the wishes of the people,” he said, in response to a question at a forum hosted by the New York-based Asia Society.
It was believed to be his first direct response to a question on his future since he came to power under a nominally civilian government replacing decades of brutal military rule.