Suu Kyi Elected NLD Chairperson at Historic Congress

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 10 March 2013

RANGOON — Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was elected on Sunday as the chairperson of the newly formed executive board of Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), at the party’s first-ever national congress.

Nyan Win, a member of the party’s central executive committee (CEC), told reporters during a press conference at the end of the three-day congress that all executive members agreed to keep Suu Kyi as NLD leader.

“We all heartily voted for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.

The members of the executive board were chosen out of 120 central committee members among nearly 900 attendees who flocked to the congress to vote for their party’s new leadership. It was the first time in the party’s 25 years of existence that it had held a national congress.

Even though the new lineup of the executive board still includes all seven former CEC members, the overall number of board members was expanded to 15, with an additional five “reserve” members, making more room for female members and delegates from ethnic regions. Tin Oo remains as the patron of the party’s Chairman Committee.

During her first speech as newly elected chairperson of the party’s CEC on Sunday, Suu Kyi said the NLD has been restructured democratically for the first time in its 25 years of history.

“I hope we can perform better than before,” the 67-year old said.

After being repressed during more than two decades, the NLD needs to strengthen its political organization ahead of the 2015 national elections, as many of its senior leaders are in their 70s and 80s, while questions remain about the effectiveness of its lower and mid-level organization.

Suu Kyi explained that the CEC members were elected based on their past, present and future relations to the party’s activities; their long-time membership; and their ability to work effectively for the NLD, the people and the country.

“We’ve tried to include ethnic people, women and members of the younger generation among them,” she added.

Suu Kyi co-founded the NLD in 1988, when Burma’s pro-democracy movement was born out of nationwide protests against the former military-backed socialist regime, to fight for democracy and human rights in the Southeast Asian country. She admitted that until now, “the party had no chance to hold a national congress to choose its leadership democratically due to harsh restrictions imposed by then military dictatorship.”

Aye Naing, the NLD representative from Rangoon’s South Dagon townships, told The Irrawaddy after Suu Kyi’s speech that all the decisions made at the congress were based on general consensus.

“All elected members here are democratically selected step by step from the party’s grassroots levels,” he said.

“That’s why I have to say I’m glad to see that now we have been able to choose our leaders through democratic practices, in the way the NLD has always valued.”