/ 9 February 2008

Burma junta to hold elections in 2010

Burma’s military government will hold a referendum on a new constitution in May this year followed by multiparty elections in 2010, the first in two decades, state television announced on Saturday.

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

”So multiparty, 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.

”In accord with the fourth step of the seven-step road map to democracy, a nationwide referendum will be held in May 2008 to ratify the newly drafted constitution,” it 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 said.

The constitution is believed likely to disbar detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San 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.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy swept the last multiparty election in 1990 after the army had crushed nationwide pro-democracy demonstrations with the loss of several thousand lives.

The military, which has ruled the country since 1962, ignored the result and she has spent much of the time since then in detention.

The government announced the seven-step road map in 2003 but had refused to set a firm timetable until now. — Reuters