[JURIST] Myanmar's draft constitution [JURIST news archive] has been approved with over 90 percent of 22 million eligible voters voting yes in Saturday's nation-wide referendum [JURIST report], the country's military government said Thursday. The regime has faced sharp international criticism [JURIST report] for going ahead with the poll after a devastating cyclone earlier this month left at least 60,000 people dead or missing. Voting in the hardest-hit areas has been delayed until later this month, but state media said that negative votes in those districts would not be enough to defeat the referendum. International rights groups questioned the accuracy of the results, as some local journalists said that they witnessed many irregularities in the voting, with people voting multiple times or not having the privacy of a truly secret ballot. AP has more.
The National League for Democracy and other opposition groups labeled the referendum a "sham" to legalize military rule. The draft constitution reportedly reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military [AP report; JURIST report] and would also block pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] from seeking office. Myanmar [JURIST news archive] has been governed without a constitution since the military regime took power in 1988 and talks on a new national charter [JURIST report] have been underway for 14 years. The last general elections in Myanmar were held in 1990. The NLD, led by Suu Kyi, won that election easily, but the ruling military government did not recognize the result and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest.