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Myanmar: Opposition party holds landmark 3-day congress

Updated On: Mar 11, 2013

Myanmar's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) held its first  congress over the weekend, as the party continues to adjust to the country's new democratic framework.

The congress, which saw close to 900 delegates elect members of the party's central executive committee, was viewed as a test of the NLDs ability to organise and set out political goals ahead of the country's 2015 elections.

It came as questions surrounded the party's openness to include new blood  which has been dominated by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi and long serving party loyalists, following their many years in detention.

However, after a vote over the weekend, the new executive committee did not see much change as members voted in  senior leaders, along with the re-election of Ms Suu Kyi as Chairwoman of the party. In one shift however, the committee was expanded from seven members to 15, in an attempt to increase diversity.

Report: Suu Kyi’s Inexperienced Party in Search of Policies for Burma (Irrawaddy, 11 March 2013)

Ready to Lead?

The move is an important step to mainstream the party, after decades of isolation since its inception in 1988. Calling for unity amongst members, Ms Suu Kyi emphasised "Our country is a union, and that is why our party's unity is very important." 

However, splits within the party have become more frequent over the past year, and within a week of the congress, 4 members were banned from attending, accused of trying to influence voting.

Others have questioned whether the party has the capacity and knowledge to lead Myanmar, following its years of military rule.  One of the biggest challenges for Suu Kyi's party remains policy expertise.

Many observers say the party must bring in more outside experts who can help them craft a policy platform and possibly govern, if the party does win elections in 2015.

Expectations on the NLD are expected to intensify, as 2015 draws near doubts persist over whether the opposition party can remodel itself for the challenges of government, with many senior members refusing to make way for the younger generation.

Despite popular success, as indicated by their sweep of the April 2012 by-elections, the NLD faces the financial and political might of President Thein Sein's Union Solidarity and Development Party, created by former generals who took of their uniforms to run for office in elections held in 2010.

Report: Suu Kyi re-elected as opposition NLD leader (Al Jazeera, 10 March 2013)

Report: Myanmar Opposition Picks Leaders Amid Party Discord (WSJ, 10 March 2013)