Myanmar holds constitution referendum amid cyclone chaos

[JURIST] The military junta of Myanmar held a national referendum on a draft constitution [JURIST news archive] Saturday despite sharp international criticism [JURIST report] for going ahead with the poll after a devastating cyclone last weekend left at least 60,000 people dead or missing. Voting in the hardest-hit areas has been delayed until later this month, but state media encouraged citizens to turn out with enthusiastic videos and patriotic songs. Some local journalists said, however, that they witnessed many irregularities in the voting, with people voting multiple times or not having the privacy of a truly secret ballot. No official results have yet been announced but the vote is widely expected to result in an overwhelming endorsement of a document presented by the military government as an essential element of its "roadmap" to democracy. AP has more.

The National League for Democracy and other opposition groups have labelled the referendum a "sham" to legalize military rule. The draft constitution reportedly reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military [AP report; JURIST report] and would also block pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] from seeking office. Myanmar [JURIST news archive] has been governed without a constitution since the military regime took power in 1988 and talks on a new national charter [JURIST report] have been underway for 14 years. The last general elections in Myanmar were held in 1990. The NLD, led by Suu Kyi, won that election easily, but the ruling military government did not recognize the result and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest.

 

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