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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 February 2008, 17:21 GMT
Burmese junta sets voting dates
Officials attend a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of Burma's independence from Britain, 4 January 2008
Burma's regime faced widespread protests last year

Burma will hold a constitutional referendum in May and general elections in 2010, the country's military junta has announced on state media.

The regime had set out what it called a roadmap for democracy but had not previously given any firm timetable.

The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) called the announcement "vague, incomplete and strange".

Burma, under military rule since 1962, saw rare nationwide protests against the junta in August and September.

The military responded with a deadly crackdown in which at least 31 people were killed, according to the UN.

I was surprised that they announced an election date without knowing the referendum results
Nyan Win
Opposition spokesman here

Saturday's statement from the military leadership, broadcast on radio and television, announced: "Multi-party democratic elections will be held in 2010, according to the new constitution.

"It is suitable to change the military administration to a democratic, civil administrative system, as good fundamentals have been established.

"The country's basic infrastructure has been built, although there is still more to do in striving for the welfare of the nation."

NLD spokesman Nyan Win expressed surprise that the election had been planned before the results of the constitutional referendum were known.

"According to my understanding, the election date should be set up after the referendum results. I was surprised that they announced an election date without knowing the referendum results," he told the BBC.

The proposed constitutional changes have not been made public, but some suspect that they would in effect bar NLD leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi from office and perhaps ensure that a military leader was chosen.

Election results ignored

Burma held a multi-party election in 1990, two years after thousands were killed in a crackdown on popular demonstrations.

The NLD won the poll, but the military ignored the result and Ms Suu Kyi has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest in Burma's commercial capital, Rangoon.

Aung San Suu Kyi (file photo)
Ms Suu Kyi's party won elections in 1990

Instead, the military formed a convention in 1993 that spent the next 14 years setting out guidelines for a new constitution.

Saturday's statement said the constitution, which is now being drafted by a government-appointed commission, would be finished soon.

The military's roadmap for democracy has been widely dismissed as a sham by observers.

Late last month, Ms Suu Kyi said she was not satisfied by recent talks with military rulers, expressing concern that the meetings might raise false hopes of political reform.

She repeated demands that the talks must involve pro-democracy groups and representatives of Burma's ethnic groups.

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