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Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday called on her party to push for a landslide victory at the general elections slated for later this year, as she celebrated her birthday with supporters.
The comments came after the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who turned 70 on Friday, cut a birthday cake alongside fellow National League for Democracy (NLD) luminaries during an official celebration at a restaurant famed for being a dissident meeting place.
Burma is expected to hold its first national vote in a quarter of a century sometime in October or November with many expecting Suu Kyi’s NLD to sweep the board if the polls are free and fair.
But the dissident turned politician warned party members against showing any complacency in the run up to the vote.
“We, the National League for Democracy, need to have a landslide win in the election,” she told supporters.
“Whatever we continue to do, with the support of the people and the strong will of our party members we will be successful,” she added.
Her comments underscore the long road to electoral success the NLD still faces, even though military rule has given way to a quasi-reformist government promising clean polls.
Under Burma‘s current constitution, a quarter of parliamentary seats are still reserved for unelected soldiers.
Analysts say the NLD needs to win as many seats as possible if they hope to effectively challenge the military’s hold on parliament.
Meanwhile Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president under a rule that excludes those with foreign spouses and children — a provision seen as aimed directly at Suu Kyi, whose two sons are British.
Technically, Suu Kyi has yet to decide whether the NLD will even contest the polls. On Saturday, she said a decision would be made shortly.
But in many ways, she has already begun campaigning with a series of high profile public appearances and speeches in recent months designed to solidify her position as the country’s pre-eminent opposition politician.
The NLD are currently holding a two-day annual conference which has been dominated by discussions on the election.
Around 300 supporters gathered outside the Royal Rose restaurant, a popular NLD meeting place close to the city’s towering Shwe Dagon pagoda.
Khin Win, 77, left her home at 3am for a chance to see Suu Kyi, who arrived for the celebrations dressed in a traditional blue sarong.
“I trust her and I admire her. I also believe that she is a credible leader,” she told AFP.