Democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi has become head of her political party, a spokesman said Tuesday, as she prepares to fight by-elections to enter Myanmar’s army-dominated parliament.
The Nobel laureate has taken the reins of her National League for Democracy (NLD), a party she helped form more than two decades ago, as part of a decision to enter the political mainstream amid nascent reform in the country.
“According to our party structure Daw Aung San Suu Kyi became the chair of the NLD,” spokesman Nyan Win told AFP. Daw is a term of respect.
He added that Suu Kyi took up the chairmanship during the official registration process, which began late last year and was formally approved last week.
Locked up by Myanmar’s previous military rulers for much of the past 20 years, Suu Kyi was long a figurehead for the NLD, but the leadership role went to older party members, as is the cultural norm in the country.
The 66-year-old now plans to contest the April 1 by-elections in a constituency near Yangon.
A total of 48 seats are up for grabs in the vote, but the number available is not enough to threaten the resounding majority held by the ruling party. One quarter of parliament’s seats are also reserved for soldiers.
Relations between the new nominally civilian government and the opposition have seen a significant thaw in recent months, with high-profile dialogue between former generals, including the president, and Suu Kyi.
Myanmar’s new leadership, which took power after a controversial 2010 election, has carried out a number of promising reform gestures but international concerns remain about the fate of political detainees.