Friday, 16 May 2008

Opposition, critics blast poll results

Mizzima News

New Delhi – Burma's main opposition party – the National League for Democracy – said the results of the May 10 referendum lack credibility and legitimacy and do not reflect the desire of voters.

Burma's ruling junta on Thursday announced through state-owned radio that a draft constitution was approved in a nationwide referendum with 92.4 percent of voters supporting the charter.

The NLD, which won a landslide victory in a 1990 parliamentary election that was later annulled by the military, said they cannot accept the results.

"This referendum does not reflect the peoples' desires. So, if the constitution is being approved without the people's desires it will still be illegitimate," Nyan Win, the NLD spokesperson, said.

Burma's prominent student activist group – the 88 Generation Students – however, said they are not surprised at the poll results as there was not a free and fair atmosphere in the lead up to the referendum.

Tun Myint Aung, one of the few 88 Generation Students still on the run from the junta, told Mizzima from his hide-out, "The junta do not even need to conduct the referendum, because they are doing whatever they want and we already knew they would announce that more than 90 percent supported the referendum."

"But through this referendum, people learnt how they were cheated and intimidated by the junta to approve the draft constitution," Tun Myint Aung said.

David Scott Mathieson, Human Rights Watch's Burma consultant, said the result is "absurd, ridiculous and transparently dishonest." Mathieson said with the junta's practice of widespread vote-rigging, intimidation and ballot-stuffing, the results lack credibility.

"This is not how you run a democracy, but it is a mafia dictatorship," Mathieson said.

The junta's draft constitution said the charter would be enacted if more than 50 percent of voters supported it, and as long as half of the eligible voters turned out at the polls.

Total turnout was 99.07 percent, according to the junta's announcement.

HRW said the Burmese junta's figures cannot be taken seriously, as there has never been such a high voter turnout, even in functioning democracies.

"Burma does not have the technical capacity to ensure this figure of voter turnout," Mathieson said.

A voter from Mandalay's Chan Aye Thar Zan Township, who spoke to Mizzima over the telephone Thursday, said there is no way the measure could have been defeated as the authorities are openly rigging votes.

The voter said he witnessed the counting of votes in his polling station as he was one of the last voters to cast his ballot on May 10. Under the junta's referendum law, the last 10 voters in each polling station are allowed to stay and witness the counting.

"They are just turning all the 'no' votes into 'yes.' The women affairs members even forced my sister to tick the ballot [yes] when she was about to cross it [no]," the voter said.

Reporting by Maung Dee, Huaipi, Jone Mann and Nem Davies, and writing by Mungpi.

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