Government claims overwhelming 'Yes' vote

May 17, 2008 (DVB), The Burmese regime has claimed that 92 percent of voters voted in favour of the draft constitution in the 10 May referendum, which was held amid widespread reports of vote-rigging and intimidation.

The Referendum Commission announced the results of the vote on 15 May, despite the fact that the 47 townships worst affected by the recent cyclone have yet to go to the polls.

The Commission declared that 99.07 percent of the 22,708,434 eligible voters took part in the referendum, and of these 92.4 percent voted 'Yes'.

There were reported to have been 1,375,480 'No' votes and 334,584 cancelled votes.

The referendum had already been dismissed as a sham by many pro-democracy groups before voting took place because the constitution was seen as unrepresentative, and polling was marred by widespread accusations of vote-rigging by the authorities.

In the lead-up to the vote, government officials reportedly intimidated opponents and offered incentives to people to vote 'Yes', as well as voting on behalf of some government workers in advance.

On the day of the referendum, there were reports of confusion as voters were given box ready-marked 'Yes' votes and told their vote would depend on which ballot box they used, while others turned up to vote only to find their vote had already been cast by the head of their household or government officials.

The junta was also criticised for going ahead with the referendum at a time when many felt all its efforts should have been focused on disaster relief.

Voters in the 40 townships in Rangoon division and seven in Irrawaddy will vote on 24 May, but mathematically have no chance of changing the outcome of the overall vote.

Reporting by Si√¢n Thomas

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