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Myanmar Ruling Party Denies Dropping Shwe Mann

A woman presents flowers to former Myanmar ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) chief Shwe Mann, as he campaigns at a village near his hometown Kanyuntkwin, Myanmar, Nov. 4, 2015. Myanmar will hold its historic general election on November

Myanmar's ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) said on Wednesday it had not expelled ousted parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann following reports and social media chatter the party had dumped him four days before an election.

Shwe Mann was dramatically removed as the chairman of the USDP in August during a late night party reshuffle in which security forces surrounded party headquarters in the capital of Naypyitaw.

Shwe Mann, a former general, antagonized some members of the USDP and military, in part by building ties with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and backing her campaign to change the constitution.

His ties with Suu Kyi has led to speculation he could be a presidential contender if, as expected, her party dominates the new parliament that will emerge from Sunday's vote and will elect a president next year.

"There have been posts on Facebook saying that the Central Executive Committee (CEC) had expelled Thura U Shwe Mann from the party after holding a meeting in the evening of November 3," the party said in a statement.

"The CEC did not hold any meeting on November 3. … The posts spreading on the Internet are just rumors and we would like to request that writing and spreading of these posts be stopped."

Kyaw Thura, a public relations officer at USDP headquarters in Naypyitaw, confirmed that Shwe Mann was still a member of the party.

Shwe Mann has spent the past weeks campaigning in the town of Phyu, 215 kilometers (135 miles) north of Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, where he is standing as a lower house candidate.