Suu Kyi's party meets to map out path to power
By Kelly Macnamara ,AFPYANGON -- Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition opened a historic conference on Friday seen as a key chance to revitalize the popular but inexperienced party, which faces major challenges ahead of elections in 2015.
March 9, 2013, 12:09 am TWN
The Nobel laureate's National League for Democracy (NLD), for years banned by a junta that lived in fear of its huge public support, has been urged to enlist the help of outside experts and inject new blood into its elderly top ranks.
Propelled by Suu Kyi's huge popularity, the NLD is widely expected to take power in the country also known as Burma if the next election is free and fair, capping a remarkable transition from military rule to democracy.
But some experts question whether the opposition is ready for the challenges of running the impoverished nation, which include building basic infrastructure, kick-starting the economy, redrawing the legal system and reviving poorly funded health and education sectors.
“It will be a litmus test for them, whether they are a party coming out of the darkness and proving they are worthy of leading this country,” said one Burmese political analyst who asked to remain anonymous.
“The NLD will need to build capacity within the organisation if they become the next government. I don't think they have anyone capable of running this show,” he added.
The NLD faces the financial and political might of President Thein Sein's Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), created by former generals who shed their uniforms to run for office in controversial elections held in 2010.
The USDP, which suffered a major drubbing at the hands of the NLD in by-elections held in April last year that saw Suu Kyi elected to parliament, is also searching for a new strategy to avert a major defeat.
An estimated 850 representatives will attend the three days of talks that aim to redefine the NLD leadership.
But it was unclear whether the party's maiden congress would bring sweeping change, and there was an air of secrecy on the first day with media refused permission to enter.
Suu Kyi, 67, who spent 15 years locked up by the former junta, is expected to be comfortably reappointed as head of the party at the congress.
Delegates will also pick a 120-member Central Committee who will in turn elect a core executive of 15 people.
In a sign of tensions within the party, four members were banned from attending the congress, accused of trying to influence the voting ahead of the meeting.