RANGOON, BURMA -- After 25 years of military domination, party politics is reawakening in Burma, and the daughter of one of the country's most revered figures is emerging as the main opposition leader. The revival has attracted 233 parties, all of which have met a Feb. 28 registration deadline in the hope that the ruling junta will make good on its pledge to hold "free and fair" multiparty elections next year. "People have been under a tight rein for so long, they are forming parties with a vengeance," said a western diplomat. With so many parties, most analysts doubt that any one could win a parliamentary majority. But diplomats and Burmese politicians agree that the most popular party -- and the one most likely to win the largest bloc of votes -- is the National League for Democracy, led by the party's well regarded and scholarly general secretary, Aung San Suu Kyi. "She is very popular. She has become the image of our whole country," said Tin Oo, a former defense minister and the party's national chairman. Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of Burma's most revered independence leader, U Aung San, who was murdered by a political rival in 1947, one year before Burma was granted full independence from Britain. U Aung San remains so highly respected that his portrait hangs in government offices and opposition homes alike. His daughter has been compared to Philippine President Corazon Aquino and Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, two women who returned to their Asian homelands from exile in the West to lead popular movements for democracy in countries that endured long periods of autocratic rule. Suu Kyi returned last year from exile in London with her British husband and their two children. Although she came back to attend to her mother, who has since died, Suu Kyi emerged as a leader of a spontaneous democracy movement that lacked direction. In an interview, Suu Kyi said she was aware of the comparisons to Aquino and Bhutto but dismissed them. "That's only because I'm a woman," she said. "The people in the Philippines and in Pakistan had much more in terms of political freedom than the people in Burma have had." While most other political leaders here seem to accept the military junta's promise to hold elections next year, Suu Kyi is skeptical and critical of the rulers. "How can you have free and fair elections in a country where there is no free speech, no freedom of assembly, no freedom of the press and no freedom from arrest?" she asked. "What we want are these basic freedoms." Suu Kyi's outspoken manner has appeared to anger the military. During her mid-January trip to the Irrawaddy division east of Rangoon, 30 backers of Suu Kyi were arrested after she spoke at a rally. The comparisons to Aquino and Bhutto also have rankled her political opponents here, who essentially describe her as a Burmese carpetbagger. "Suu Kyi came on the political stage only in August. There was no political experience in her life," said former general Aung Gyi, who broke ranks from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy last year in a feud with her over the presence of well-known ex-communists among the party's top officials and advisers. Aung Gyi, once considered the major opposition figure, has since formed his own party, the Union Nationals Democracy Party. But his standing appears to have slipped, especially among the young, who see him as an apologist for the military and for Burma's former strongman, Ne Win. Some analysts here said the presence of a dozen former members of the Burmese Communist Party on the 14-member executive committee of Suu Kyi's party is a potentially volatile campaign issue that might provide the anticommunist military a ready excuse to cancel the elections or nullify an unfavorable result. She also has as an informal adviser U Chit Maung, Burma's best-known communist leader of the postindependence years. He has formed his own party but has pledged his support to a coalition. In an interview, Col. David Abel, the military junta's minister of trade and finance, said, "Once you are a communist, you are always a communist." He added, "We would not sit idly by if we see armed communists coming in." Suu Kyi, asked about her party's communist ties, if any, said, "That is the line people are going to take who want to attack us. There are no more communists in our party than there are in any other political organization in Burma." Diplomats said two groups that could affect the outcome of any election are students and the military. The students, with an efficient nationwide underground network, spearheaded last year's dramatic protest movement and are still believed capable of organizing large-scale demonstrations. But they are now split, with some fighting a guerrilla war from the Thai-Burmese border regions, others forming parties to participate in elections and many more uncommitted. The new student political organization, the Democratic Party for New Society, is believed to have the second-largest infrastructure, with 150 branch offices. The group says it does not intend to contest elections unless the current regime steps down in favor of an interim government. New Society's general secretary, Ye Naing Aung, 26, said, "We have not yet decided which way to go -- either political means or armed struggle. That will depend on the actions of the government." Party chairman Moe Thee Zon, 26, added, "We want to change the system peacefully, but the government is forcing us into another direction." The military has promised to stay neutral in the elections. But most analysts say that in the provinces, military units will be working to ensure a large voter turnout for the National Unity Party (NUP), the remnants of the disbanded Burma Socialist Program Party that ruled for two decades as the sole party. "The intention at the center is for the army to be even-handed towards the political parties, but out in the boondocks, the military is indeed supporting the NUP," said a diplomat. Even without military help, the party is widely thought capable of winning 15 to 20 percent of the vote, mainly because of its organization and its built-in constituency of government workers and soldiers.