The polls have opened in Myanmar’s controversial referendum, although voting is delayed for two weeks in the cyclone-hit south.
The military rulers say a ‘yes’ vote for a new constitution will pave the way for a return to democracy. Critics say it could not come at a worse time and will set in stone the army’s dominance of the nation’s political system:
“This is a referendum that actually only allows anyone who supports the constitution to be able to publicly support it. They do not allow the “no” campaign to demonstrate on the street. They don’t allow a debate. They lock up those who actually distribute pamphlets that urge a “no” vote. This is a total farce”, said one political analyst.
It will be the first vote of any kind in the country since Aung San Suu Kyi won 1990’s general election. It was quashed by the military which has ruled ever since.
The new constitution would allow a fresh election in 2010, but reserve 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military, along with key ministries, and the right to suspend the constitution itself.