Yangon - Myanmar's main opposition party on Sunday re-elected Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as its leader along with an executive lineup of other familiar faces, observers said.
The National League for Democracy's new 15-member executive committee was elected by secret ballot at the party's first congress, intended to democratize the party which has been criticized for its centralized structure.
There were no new NLD members in the executive lineup, a fact which drew immediate criticism.
"The NLD decided who were eligible for the CEC after evaluating their past performance, appraising their current contributions to the party and their potential leadership skills," Suu Kyi said.
She said new members lacked experience for executive posts but noted that new recruits comprised 35 per cent of the 120-person central committee.
It was the first time the NLD elected its leadership.
The congress has been hailed as an important step for the 2015 general election. The 25-year-old NLD won the 1990 election by a landslide with 80 per cent of the vote, but was blocked from assuming power by the junta that ruled during 1988-2010.
"The NLD shouldn't be content with the public support we once had," Suu Kyi said. "We need to struggle for public support. That's why I want all NLD members to work hard, unite and strive for equality in implementing our mandated responsibilities for the people and for the rule of law," she said.
Suu Kyi, 67, was re-elected unanimously and ranked first on the executive committee, followed by Nyan Win, a close aide who has been the party spokesman for decades.
The new leadership lineup includes Aung San Suu Kyi, Nyan Win, Hantha Myint, Ohn Kyine, Win Myint, Tun Tun Hein, May Win Myint, Win Htein Zaw Myint Maung, Aung Moe Nyo, Daw Khin Htay Kywe, Nan Khin Htwe Myint, Kyaw Khin, Nyi Pu, Myo Aung and auxilary members Mann Johnny, Thein Lwin, Aung Soe, Zaw Bwe and Phyu Phyu Thin.
"The same team is going to be leading the party," said Khin Maung Shwe, chairman of the National Democratic Front, which split off from the NLD in 2010.
"These are the same old faces. Most of them are in their late 60s."
Octogenarians Tin Oo and Win Tin, the so-called "uncles" of the old central executive committee, were not re-elected.
There were hopes that the congress would lead to a younger, more dynamic leadership than the top-down structure dominated by Suu Kyi.
She has never designated a successor.
"There is no person who can take the place of Aung San Suu Kyi in the current NLD lineup," Khin Maung Shwe said.
Suu Kyi has led the party since its inception in 1988 and come to personify the pro-democracy movement and struggle against decades of military rule.
Four other women were elected to the executive committee Saturday.
The party contested the April 2011 by-election, winning 43 out of the 45 contested seats, allowing the opposition leader to join parliament.