Aung San Suu Kyi’s party opens historic conference

AFP, YANGON, Myanmar

Sat, Mar 09, 2013 - Page 1

Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party opened a historic conference yesterday seen as a key chance to revitalize the popular but inexperienced party, which faces major challenges ahead of elections in 2015.

The Nobel Peace Prize 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 Aung San 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.

However, some experts question whether the opposition is ready for the myriad 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 organization 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 Burmese 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 Aung San Suu Kyi elected to parliament, is also searching for a new strategy to avert a major defeat.

An estimated 850 representatives from all corners of the country are to attend the three days of talks that aim to redefine the NLD leadership — an event hailed by the party as unprecedented in the country’s troubled history.