Myanmar's boisterous election campaign draws to a close Friday, two days before milestone polls that could finally propel Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party to power after a decades-long struggle against the military.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) is eyeing an outright majority at Sunday's general election, the first the party has contested since 1990.
Myanmar was ruled for half a century by a brutal and isolationist junta which crushed pro-democracy movements through a combination of violent crackdowns and political chicanery.
But in 2011 the military unexpectedly ceded power to a quasi-civilian government led by former top-ranking general President Thein Sein.
The wave of reforms that followed loosened the military chokehold on the nation.
A free press has flourished since, most political prisoners have been released and the economy is creeping back to life in lockstep with the rollback of most international sanctions.
But the ruling, army-backed Union and Solidarity Development Party (USDP) is the main obstacle to a historic NLD win.
In Yangon early Friday residents were removing party stickers and flags from cars, anxious to meet a midnight deadline on campaigning, in a sign of the nervousness that pervades Myanmar after years of arbitrary military rule.
But spirits among Suu Kyi's supporters were high.
"The NLD is the only party that can make our hopes come true," Tun Tun Naing, 39, told AFP, explaining his loyalty to the party pivots on its leader's star power.
"Mother Suu" has received a rock star welcome by waves of red-clad supporters as she campaigned across the country.
Detractors say her reputation as a human rights icon has diminished in recent years as she plunged herself into Myanmar's febrile politics, often choosing hard pragmatism over the steely idealism of her house arrest years.But the 70-year-old remains revered by the nation's pro-democracy camp and garlanded by the international community for her long, selfless struggle.
She served a total of 15 years house arrest under the junta and steered the party through repeated violent crackdowns.
Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency by an army-scripted constitution, but says she will nevertheless run the government if her party wins.
A win for the NLD will represent "a great leap into democracy," she said in her final press conference on Thursday. (AFP)