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Myanmar holds referendum despite devastation

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Myanmar holds referendum despite devastation


Polls have closed in Myanmar in a referendum that the junta decided to hold despite the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis. The generals claim the vote will set the nation on the path to democracy, but critics say it will consolidate the army’s role in government.

The country’s leaders cast their votes at a polling station in the new capital Naypyidaw this afternoon. State television broadcast a video of the junta leader and the prime minister voting together with their wives, and repeatedly urged people to vote.

The main opposition, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, opposes the referendum. The new constitution would allows for an election in 2010, but the text also reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats and key ministries for the military.

Outside the country, activists have been protesting against the referendum. There were demonstrations outside Myanmar’s embassies in Malaysia, Thailand and Japan.

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