Saturday, February 9

Elections in 2010?

written by Aung Hla Tun
YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's military government said on Saturday it would hold a referendum on a new constitution in May followed by multi-party elections in 2010, a move dismissed as worthless by the opposition without the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

"We have achieved success in economic, social and other sectors and in restoring peace and stability," the junta announced on state television after sending in the army to quell Buddhist monk-led pro-democracy demonstrations in September.

"So multi-party, democratic elections will be held in 2010," said the statement issued in the name of Secretary Number One Lieutenant-General Tin Aung Myint Oo, a top member of the junta.

The elections would be the first since 1990, when Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won multi-party elections in the former Burma.

The military, which has ruled the country since 1962, ignored the result, crushing pro-democracy demonstrations at the cost of several thousand lives.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi has spent much of the time since then in detention.
A spokesman for the Burmese government in exile, which includes MPs elected in 1990 but who fled after the junta refused to let the election result stand, said the announcement would mean nothing unless Suu Kyi was released and took part.

"Without the participation of Suu Kyi, the NLD and ethnic parties the people will not accept this constitution," said Zin Linn.

Saturday's announcement from the junta did not make clear whether the NLD would be allowed to take part, but the constitution is believed likely to disbar Suu Kyi from office by ruling out anyone married to a foreigner, as she was, and to ensure the top leadership comes from the military.

Suu Kyi's husband, British academic Michael Aris, died in March 1999.

"In accord with the fourth step of the seven-step roadmap to democracy, a nationwide referendum will be held in May 2008 to ratify the newly drafted constitution," the junta statement said.

The new constitution, now being drafted after the completion of a national convention first convened in the 1990s, will be finished soon, the statement added.

The NLD has refused to take part in the convention.

The government announced the seven-step roadmap in 2003 but had refused to set a firm timetable until now. Some Western powers dismissed the roadmap as little more than a sham to allow the junta to retain power.

No comments: