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Suu Kyi's party closes testy congress in Myanmar

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition wraps up its historic first congress Sunday, finalising its leadership line-up as it faces infighting that has overshadowed the launch of its bid to rule Myanmar after 2015 polls.

Hundreds of National League for Democracy (NLD) members have gathered in Yangon for the conference in a display of political strength that would have been unthinkable under the former junta.

But the meeting also revealed the challenges facing the party in the run up to elections widely predicted to see them take power.

Suu Kyi on Saturday appealed for a "spirit of fraternity" to be returned to the NLD in a speech to delegates that acknowledged that there had been "fighting" for positions among the party's rank and file.

She is expected to be re-elected as party chairman as final votes are tallied on Sunday.

After being silenced by the Myanmar's military rulers for two decades, the party entered the political mainstream last year as a result of sweeping reforms initiated by a new, partly-civilian regime.

But some observers question whether it is ready to run an impoverished nation whose economy, education and health systems were left in tatters by the corrupt former junta.

Faultlines have also been detected between the older senior officials -- known as the "NLD uncles" -- and a younger generation eager to help steer the party as Myanmar undergoes sweeping changes.

"The party has to combine all these different people," a western diplomat observing the congress told AFP on Saturday warning that the NLD currently lacks the "capacity" to govern.

Some party members were equally candid about the challenges ahead.

An NLD central committee said: "Every kind of work has challenges, there can be difficulties and we have to overcome these. We have some conflict, but it is not too big."

The 67-year-old Suu Kyi has not ruled out ambitions of becoming president, with elections set for 2015, but a constitutional rule currently bars her from the role as she was married to a Briton and has two sons who are foreign nationals.

The NLD also faces the financial and political might of 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 was battered by the NLD in by-elections held in April last year that saw Suu Kyi elected to parliament, is also scrambling for a new strategy to avert a major defeat in 2015.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130309/suu-kyis-party-closes-testy-congress-myanmar