Myanmar vote okays new statute

Yangon, May 15:

Myanmar’s junta announced today that its new, pro-military constitution has won overwhelming support in a referendum held while the country was reeling under a devastating cyclone that may have killed up to 128,000 people.

State radio said 92.4 per cent of the 22 million eligible voters approved the constitution, dismissed by critics as a sham designed to solidify the military’s rule. It gave voter turnout Saturday as more than 99 per cent.

Voting was postponed until May 24 in the Irrawaddy delta and Yangon areas, both battered by Cyclone Nargis. State radio said results of the late balloting could not mathematically reverse the approval.

Human rights groups have dismissed the vote as a sham because in a country ruled by the feared military since 1962, few would have dared to reject the constitution. The voting was marred by widespread complaints of intimidation and rigging.

The junta says the new statute will lead to election in 2010. But it guarantees 25 per cent of parliamentary seats to the military and allows the president to hand over all power to the military in a state of emergency.