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Burma’s ruling military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), held ‘elections’ on Sunday 7 November 2010. These ‘elections’ were not free nor fair, and did not bring any freedom to Burma’s people; instead they further entrenched and legitimised military rule.

Elections were last held in Burma in 1990 when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won over 82% of seats but the Burmese ruling military junta refused to honour the results. The military regime then engaged in its own seven-step “roadmap to democracy”, resulting in the 2008 Constitution. In the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Nargis which killed more than 140,000 people, the Burmese junta held a referendum on this new Constitution. Over 92% of voters approved it but both the constitution-drafting process and associated referendum were far from free and fair.

Human rights violations in Burma are at their worst for 20 years. Since 1996, over 3,500 villages in Eastern Burma alone have been destroyed, and at least half a million people internally displaced. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee to the borders of neighbouring countries. Censorship and repression are increasing. Although Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, more than 2,200 political prisoners remain imprisoned.

The 2008 Constitution, which was enacted as a result of the elections on 7 November 2010, is the key mechanism by which Burma’s military rulers are guaranteeing their hold onto power under a new ‘civilian’ façade.

Key points of the 2008 Constitution
• 25% of seats in Parliament are reserved for the military as well as 3 key Ministries.
• The military controls constitutional amendments.
• The military is above the law and immune to prosecution.
• Military coups are legalised; the military can take direct control at any time if it perceives a threat to ‘national solidarity’.
• Basic human rights are still threatened: all repressive laws remain in place including those allowing censorship and the detention of political prisoners.
• Federalism is denied, subjugation of ethnic groups is legitimised.
• The President must come from the military.
• Political activists currently in detention are barred from holding office.
• Under the Constitution, all armed forces should be under the central command of the Defence Services. The SPDC issued an ultimatum to the various ethnic ceasefire groups to incorporate their armed forces into a new Border Guard Force (BGF) prior to the elections.
• The composition and role of the National Defence and Security Council is unclear but it is likely to be where the real power lies and to be comprised of current high-ranking SPDC officials.
• SPDC will continue to rule until the 2008 Constitution comes into force when Parliament convenes.

The SPDC’s five Election Laws were not in accordance with international standards and prevent the exercise of fundamental freedoms and political rights. According to the elections laws,

• The 17-member Election Commission was hand-picked by the military junta.
• The Election Commission has the authority to deny or delay elections in ethnic nationality areas for “security reasons”.
• Decisions of the Election Commission regarding political parties may not be appealed.
• The Election Commission has the authority to disband and abolish political parties that fail to uphold the 2008 Constitution or accept persons as members barred from joining political parties.
• Civil servants, Buddhist monks and members of other religious orders are not allowed to form or join a political party.
• Anyone convicted by a court and serving a jail term as well as anyone associated with what the regime defines as “outlawed organisations” are excluded from forming or joining a political party.
• Armed opposition groups are forbidden from taking part in the elections.
• Political parties must defend the 2008 Constitution and are not allowed to criticise it.

Further Info

Burma Action Ireland

PO Box 6786, Dublin 1, IRELAND email: web: