Aung San Suu Kyi’s long-silenced opposition opened its first ever party conference on Friday, as it sets its sights on the challenges of power in Myanmar after years in the political wilderness.

An estimated 850 representatives will attend three days of talks that aim to redefine the National League for Democracy (NLD) leadership — an event hailed by the party as unprecedented in the country’s troubled history.

Propelled by Ms. Suu Kyi’s huge popularity, the NLD is widely expected to take power after 2015 elections, if the vote is free and fair. 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 party has been urged to do more to include younger members — many senior party members, called ‘NLD uncles’, being in their 80s and 90s — and technocrats as it prepares for the 2015 vote.

‘Hierarchical’

Diplomats have described the NLD as “hierarchical”.

“New ideas are not solicited or encouraged from younger members, and the Uncles regularly expel members they believe are ‘too active’,” according to a leaked diplomatic cable from the U.S. embassy in Yangon dated 2008.

Delegates will pick a 120-member Central Committee — possibly on Friday — who will in turn elect a core executive of 15 people.

Ms. Suu Kyi is expected to be comfortably reappointed as head of the party.

But beyond that the precise agenda was unclear. Journalists were barred from entering the opening of the congress and even some delegates appeared unsure what was on the schedule.

Ms. Suu Kyi is expected to attend the party conference on Saturday. — AFP