Burma’s NLD Calls for a Referendum “No” Vote

03 April 2008

Burma’s NLD Calls for a Referendum “No” Vote

Source : Irrawaddy News Agency

Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), called on the electorate for the first time on Wednesday to cast a “No” vote in the constitutional referendum in May.

The party, headed by pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, said a “No” vote was necessary because the proposed constitution had not been written by elected representatives of the people but by “hand-picked puppets” of the regime.

The draft constitution, drawn up by the regime-constituted National Convention, and a general election to be held in May are the fourth and fifth steps of the junta’s seven-step “road map to a disciplined democracy”.

The NLD’s announcement on Wednesday said the proposed constitution broke a basic principle of democracy, under which authority had to come from the people. It also failed to guarantee democratic values and human rights.

By voting against the draft constitution, the people would be practicing their rights, said NLD spokesman Thein Nyunt. The state powers being exercised by the regime had not originated with the people, he told The Irrawaddy —“Therefore it is the responsibility of all citizens to take back people-power.”

The NLD had been criticized for failing to take an early stand on the referendum. Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese political commentator based in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, welcomed the NLD’s call now for a “No” vote and said it increased the party’s credibility.

Another Burmese political analyst, Htay Aung, said that dissidents inside Burma had called for a “No” vote, and predicted a “confrontation” ahead of the referendum.

Several activists had been attacked in Rangoon because of their views, he said—“These violent acts by the security forces and thugs backed by the junta don’t seem to stop,” he said.

Fourteen members of the Committee Representing the Peoples’ Parliament (CRPP), which was formed by successful candidates in the 1990 election, have also called for rejection of the proposed constitution by the Burmese people as well as internationally.

The document had been written without the participation of the NLD or ethnic party representatives and without meeting the expectations of ethnic nationalities, the CRPP members said.

They described the draft constitution as “a sham,” and said they expected the junta to claim a referendum victory “by cheating and fraud.”

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