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Landmark meet of Suu Kyi's party
Publication Date : 03-03-2013
The first national congress of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) this week will be a landmark meeting expected to draw some 1,500 delegates who will deliberate the party's manifesto and elect leaders.
The meeting in Yangon, which starts on Friday and winds up next Sunday, comes almost a year since its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 67, won a seat in Myanmar's Parliament in a historic by-election last April.
The conference was supposed to be held earlier but was held up by internal rows.
"Daw Suu Kyi has been picking women and youth over the party's old faithful," said an analyst in Yangon who asked not to be named.
Another drawback was that the NLD had no credible economic vision, he said.
It was not the first time members have split from the party. In 2010, several split over Ms Suu Kyi's decision not to contest the general election that year.
Still, it seems certain that Suu Kyi will retain the leadership of the party. Few can rival her charisma and pedigree; she is the daughter of the independence hero, General Aung San.
But she is well known for taking decisions herself apparently with little consultation, with few in the NLD daring to challenge her.
This congress is the first the party has ever had, and Suu Kyi's style of leadership will be closely watched, said Khin Zaw Win, a former political prisoner now focused on training and development with his non-government Tampadipa Institute.
Three people hold the keys to Myanmar's political future and stability as it emerges with sometimes startling speed from four decades of military dictatorship.
In addition to Suu Kyi herself, they are the reformist President Thein Sein, and the ambitious Speaker of the House Shwe Mann.
Suu Kyi, in making the leap from an aloof icon of democracy to a pragmatic politician, has played her cards in ways that have sometimes annoyed her own supporters.
She has maintained a good relationship with the President and the Speaker, and warmed up to the powerful army. But she has been criticised for refusing to stick her neck out on controversial issues like the sectarian violence in Rakhine state and the brutal war in Kachin state. She has also raised eyebrows by accepting political donations from cronies of the erstwhile military regime. And she has her hands full keeping her own party intact.
The meeting is expected to define the leadership of the opposition party as it sets its sights on the crucial 2015 presidential polls, which Suu Kyi is expected to contest, experts say.
But before that, she faces the challenge of holding together and reinventing her own party in a new and rapidly changing Myanmar.