Sun 10 Mar 2013
Filed under: DASSK,Inside Burma,News
Myanmar’s main opposition party ended a congress over the weekend with the party’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, calling for a “good relationship” with the powerful military. She vowed to infuse new blood into the party, which is still recovering from more than two decades of persecution under military rule.
The weekend congress was a showcase for Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s efforts to revitalize the party, the National League for Democracy. By the admission of its members, the party has struggled with factionalism and poor management, but many analysts believe it will be the front-runner in national elections in 2015.
For the first time since the party was founded nearly 25 years ago, delegates elected members of a central committee that will help govern the party’s affairs, in a small step away from the highly personalized sway that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has had.
Despite her call for “new blood,” few changes were made to the aging party hierarchy.
In a country where about half of the population is under the age of 25, the average age of the party’s executive committee, whose members were announced Sunday, is over 60.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi handpicked the 15 party executives, underlining her continued dominance in the organization and the limits of the democratization in the party.
“The N.L.D. exists because of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” said Mai Ye Kyaw Thu, who at 29 was one of the youngest delegates. “The party would not exist without her.”
As expected, the delegates re-elected Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi as party chairwoman.
Membership in the party is growing, partly because of its prospects for 2015. Party officials say membership has increased by a third over the past year to 1.3 million people. But the party, which has been mismanaged for years, is having trouble keeping up with the growth.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi acknowledged what she called “defects” in the party.
“If we want to build this nation into a real democracy, we, the National League for Democracy, have to change behavior, even with ourselves,” she said.
Wai Moe contributed reporting.