'False votes and intimidation' ratified Burma's constitution

May 11, 2009 (DVB), Measures taken to ensure ratification of Burma's 2008 constitution included voter intimidation and falsification of results, claims a report released to mark the one-year anniversary of the constitution.

Last May, the ruling State Peace and Development Council announced that 92 per cent of voters had endorsed the draft constitution, revised from the 1974 version.

Critics argue that the new constitution, which allocates 25 per cent of parliament seats to the military even before voters go to the polls, and bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running for office, guarantees an entrenchment of military rule.

"The government claims perfect voter turnout in some of Burma's most remote and sparsely populated areas," said Borazi, director of the Institute for Political Analysis and Documentation (IPAD), a Rangoon-based independent research and training centre.

"We monitored many of these stations and know that turnout was marginal.

Officials also cancelled thousands of ballots to skew the results."

The report, entitled 'No Real Choice: An Assessment of Burma’s 2008 Referendum', lists officials committing frauds such as handing out pre-filled voting ballots saying 'yes' and making people vote on behalf of absent family members or co-workers.

Research was carried out in Kachin State and northern Shan state, and included extensive interviews with voters and polling station officials, and accessing of voting statistics classified as top secret by the government.

Several voters had also claimed that officials threatened the voters in case they were planning to vote against the constitution.

Many of the polling station officials themselves admitted to being afraid of punishment if the voting results in their stations didn't show full support for the constitution.

"The referendum was not intended to measure citizens' consent to be governed under the constitution," said Borazi.

"It was an exercise to entrench military rule regardless of public sentiment."

Reporting by Rosalie Smith

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