Suu Kyi party mulls Myanmar comeback

2011-11-18 10:01

Yangon - The opposition party of Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to announce its return to the official political arena on Friday after years of marginalisation by military strongmen.

About 100 senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) gathered in Yangon to decide whether to re-register as a political party, after boycotting elections in 2010 - the first to be held in Myanmar for 20 years.

The NLD won a landslide victory in polls in 1990, but the win was never recognised by the then-ruling junta.

The party refused to take part in last November's vote mainly because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members. Suu Kyi was under house arrest at the time.

The Nobel peace prize winner, who has spent most of the last two decades in detention, was released a few days after the polls and now appears to be planning an entrance to the mainstream political process.


"On the whole I think the great majority of our people will go in for re-registration," 66-year-old Suu Kyi told the BBC on Thursday.

Asked if she was ready to run for office, she said her party would discuss on Friday "as to when we think it is the right time to enter parliament and why we think that time is right".

NLD spokesperson Nyan Win previously said that Suu Kyi was "likely" to participate in a coming by-election. It is not yet clear when the vote will be held, but more than 40 seats are available in parliament's two chambers.

Leading figures from the NLD travelled from across Myanmar for their meeting, which began on Friday morning at the party's headquarters in Yangon, according to an AFP correspondent at the venue.

"We will follow Aung San Suu Kyi's decision as we unconditionally believe in her. If she takes part in the coming by-election we have no objection at all," said Ba Swe, a party member from the Irrawaddy region, west of Yangon.

"Today, as far as I know, many central committee members will be in favour of re-registration."

On Thursday the NLD youth wing, comprising members aged under 35, released a statement in favour of re-registration.

Global isolation

Analysts say the return of the NLD would add to the legitimacy of the army-backed government, which is seeking to end its global isolation by loosening political shackles - but also increase the relevancy of the popular but long-excluded Suu Kyi.

The 2010 election, widely discredited by outside observers, brought the army's political proxies to power after decades of outright military rule, but the new government has surprised critics with a number of reformist moves.

It has held direct talks with Suu Kyi, freed some 200 dissidents from jail, frozen work on an unpopular mega-dam and passed a law giving workers the right to strike.

As a reward for its conciliatory moves, Myanmar has won Southeast Asia's backing to chair the region's bloc in 2014, despite the US warning that the move was premature.