''We have achieved success in economic, social and other sectors and in restoring peace and stability. Therefore multi-party, democratic elections will be held in 2010,'' the announcement said. ''The time has now come to change from military rule to democratic civilian rule,'' the statement added. However, critics said the announcement yesterday was a part of a public relations strategy meant to counter growing international impatience with the slow progress towards political reconciliation in the country branded an international pariah.
Iconic Myanmar pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) which decisively won the last parliament elections in Myanmar nearly 20 years ago, described the announcement as ''vague, incomplete and strange''.
''Even before knowing the results of the referendum, the government has already announced that elections will be held in 2010,'' a NLD spokesman said.
The announcement is in keeping with the military junta's ''road map to democracy'' under which a constitution is being drafted for more than a decade by a junta-controlled constituent assembly.
The constitution is to be put to a national referendum in May this year. Myanmar's military rulers have shown willingness to heed to international criticism following the crackdown on peaceful street protests in the former capital Yangon last year.
They hosted the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro last November and have twice allowed special UN envoy on Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari to hold rare consultations with pro-democracy activists in the country, including Ms Suu Kyi in recent months.