Suu Kyi's Myanmar party to stage first congress

Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition is to hold its first ever party conference Friday, as it sets its sights on the challenges of power in Myanmar after long years in the political wilderness.

An estimated 850 representatives will attend three days of talks that will redefine National League for Democracy (NLD) leadership and which the party has hailed as unprecedented in the country's history.

Red flags bearing the NLD peacock emblem have been erected on the stage of a Yangon restaurant for the landmark congress, expected to see the party elect a core executive of 15 people as well as a wider 120-member Central Committee.

Propelled by the huge popularity of chairman Suu Kyi, the NLD is widely expected to take power after 2015 elections that many see as the apex of Myanmar's transition from decades of military dictatorship.

Observers say the party, which spent more than two decades campaigning for democracy in Myanmar before finally entering parliament after historic 2012 by-elections, must now prepare itself for the myriad challenges of ruling the fast-changing nation.

"The NLD will need to build capacity within the organisation if they become the next government. I don't think they have anyone capable of running this show," said one Yangon-based analyst who asked to remain anonymous.

"You have to adapt to the new opening. Can the NLD meet that challenge? This is a big question."

The party, whose senior ranks are dominated by veterans of the democracy struggle, has been urged to do more to include younger members and technocrats as it prepares for the 2015 vote.

Suu Kyi, who entered parliament last year, has not ruled out presidential ambitions, although a constitutional rule currently bars her from the top job because she was married to a Briton and has two sons who are both foreign nationals.

The 67-year-old Nobel laureate is expected to attend the party conference on Saturday.

Reforms have swept Myanmar since a quasi-civilian regime, led by former general President Thein Sein, took power in 2011, ending years of isolation and promising a flood of aid and investment.

But multiple hurdles remain, including building basic infrastructure, kick-starting the economy, redrawing the legal system and reviving poorly funded health and education sectors.