Election 2020: The Week in Review

By San Yamin Aung 31 October 2020

YANGON— ‘Election 2020: The Week in Review’ offers a summary of the most important developments related to the 2020 election during the past week — the stories readers should not miss if they want to understand the electoral landscape. In this week two weeks ahead of the election (Oct.24 to Oct. 30), election violence on the rise, elderly voters cast their advance vote, election commission warns legal action against unruly supporters of parties and made follow-up announcements on election cancellation areas.

Elderly Voters Cast Advance Votes

Thursday (Oct. 29)

An elderly woman casts a ballot during early voting on Thursday in
Yangon. (Photo: Myo Min Soe/ The Irrawaddy)

Myanmar’s voters aged 60 years old and older started casting their advance votes for the Nov. 8 general election at polling stations and mobile ballot boxes.

To reduce the risk of COVID-19, the Union Election Commission (UEC) has opened advance polling stations nationwide until Nov. 5 for older voters who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. For those who cannot go to polling stations because of health conditions, mobile ballot boxes are available. Myanmar has 5.1 million people who are 60 years old and above, nearly 10 percent of the population, according to a 2019 inter-censal survey.

People in quarantine centers, those stranded due to travel restrictions, civil servants who need to perform their duties outside their constituencies, election candidates and their representatives are also eligible for advance voting.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, ex-general and former parliamentary speaker U Shwe Mann who founded Union Betterment Party to run in the Nov. 8 election are also among those who cast their advance ballots in Naypyitaw this week.


US, Japan urge Myanmar to Hold Inclusive Election

Tuesday (Oct. 27)

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi votes in Naypyitaw on Oct. 29, 2020. (Photo: Thiha Lwin/ The Irrawaddy)

The United States State Department said David Hale, under secretary for political affairs, spoke to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to reaffirm US support for democratic reforms and humanitarian relief efforts in Myanmar during a telephone conservation on Tuesday. Hale also called for “a credible, transparent and inclusive election in November” as the US holds a far more controversial election days earlier.

Hale’s call comes as Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) faces criticism over its decision to cancel voting in areas dominated by ethnic minorities.

Mr. Sasakawa Yohei, the Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar, who heads an election observation mission, also called on the government to make special efforts to hold the election in all constituencies. His comments came in a statement released on Tuesday.


Election Commission Warns Unruly Parties’ Supporters 

Thursday (Oct. 29)

NLD supporters in Mandalay on Oct. 18. (Photo: Zaw Zaw/ The Irrawaddy)

The UEC said that supporters of political parties have neglected to adhere to the rules related to the election campaign and health guidelines during their rallies, exceeding the maximum number of people allowed to gather and failing to follow the social distancing rules. Election campaign activities are allowed to have a maximum of 50 people, and a distance of 6 feet between people must be maintained.

The UEC warned parties’ supporters to fully abide by the rules and said if they do not they will face legal action. The warning came in an announcement Thursday.


First death due to election violence this year

Saturday (Oct. 24)

USDP supporters during the clash in Sagaing’s Kantbalu township. (Photo: Supplied)

Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) supporters attacked a 38-year-old man who tried to intervene to stop the beating of National League for Democracy (NLD) youth supporters during the clash in Karboe village in Sagaing region’s Kanbalu township. The man, who was wearing an NLD t-shirt when he was attacked, received severe head injuries and died at the hospital on Saturday morning, becoming the first fatality due to election violence this year.

The mob also damaged a house where NLD supporters attempted to hide out, motorcycles of NLD supporters and the village’s COVID-19 checkpoint gate, according to regional government’s rule of law and justice body. Five people were arrested in connection with the killing and the destruction of property. This year campaign season has seen a record number of election violence including riots, abductions and deadly attacks compared to 2015. Read the analysis story on election violence here.


Election Commission Makes Follow-up Announcement of Election Cancellation Areas

Tuesday (Oct. 27)

Union Election Commission Chairman U Hla Thein speaks to political parties at a meeting in Yangon on June 27. (Photo: Myo Min Soe / The Irrawaddy)

The UEC said voting would not be conducted in 94 village tracts in Paletwa, which was spared in its initial announcement of election cancellation areas earlier this month.

At the same time, it reversed its earlier cancellation of voting in three village tracts in Rakhine’s Kyaukphyu Township, four village tracts in Rakhine’s Ann Township, one village tract each in Shan State’s Lashio and Kunlong townships, and a ward in Shan’s Muse Township. The follow up announcement was made after complaints that the commission’s criteria for cancelling voting for security reasons lacked consistency across the country.

On Oct. 16, the UEC announced that voting would not be held in 15 whole townships and parts of 41 townships in Rakhine, Shan, Kachin, Karen and Mon states and Bago Region.


USDP objects election officials’ rejection of military’s unsealed advance votes

Tuesday (Oct. 27)

USDP supporters in Zayarthiri township in Naypyitaw in October. (USDP Women Committee/ Facebook)

The military-backed and former ruling USDP raised objections against a decision by the Dagon township election commission in Yangon not to count advance ballots arriving in unsealed envelopes from 58 military personnel due to a violation of election laws. Article 60 of the Election Law states that military personnel and their relatives can vote in advance when outside their constituencies. But it also says a ballot must be inside a sealed envelope. Yet, the USDP objected that there is no written statement in election laws and by-laws that the unsealed advance ballots must be rejected.


Shan Rebels Fire on Govt Administrators Delivering Ballot Papers

Tuesday (Oct. 27)

Restoration Council of Shan State troops in Loi Tai Leng, Shan State. / The Irrawaddy

Staff members of the Langkho District General Administration Department came under fire after preparing for voting in Mongpan Township in southern Shan State on Tuesday.  The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) said the incident was accidental. There has been no recent tension with Myanmar’s military in the area where the shooting took place, but the RCSS has designated it as a frontline and deployed extra troops due to instability.

Two vehicles were carrying 13 people after taking ballot papers and voting equipment to remote polling stations. The district administrator and a clerk were injured in the shooting and treated at Sao Sun Tun Hospital in Taunggyi. The administrator reportedly informed the RCSS liaison office two days ahead of the journey.


More election-related stories:

The Sinners Against Myanmar’s Elections

Myanmar people vote during the general election in 1990.

They had many accomplices, but we can lay the worst sins that have been committed against Myanmar’s democracy over the past six decades squarely at the feet of three men.

Ethnic Parties Looking for Victory at Polls in Kachin State

Kachin women at the Manaw Festival. / The Irrawaddy

Candidates from merged ethnic Kachin parties believe the Kachin State People’s Party puts them in a stronger position against the NLD and USDP than in previous elections.

Pundits’ Takes on Myanmar’s 2020 Election

Bertil Lintner in Yangon in 2014. / The Irrawaddy

As Myanmar prepares to vote, The Irrawaddy asks David Steinberg, a former lecturer and author of many books on the country, for his views on the Nov. 8 election.

Myanmar’s Election Body Faces Crisis of Confidence Ahead of Election

A Yangon resident checks his name on the voter list displayed for the second time on Oct. 12, 2020. / Htet Wai / The Irrawaddy

Numerous unanswered questions have arisen surrounding the way the Union Election Commission is running the Nov. 8 general election.

Myanmar Election Violence on the Rise as November Vote Nears

USDP supporters during the clash in Sagaing’s Kantbalu township. / Supplied

Riots, abductions, and deadly attacks in this campaign have reached record numbers compared to 2015.

You may also like these stories:

Myanmar’s Older Voters Cast Early Ballots

Myanmar’s COVID-19 Cases Exceed 50,000

COVID-19 Rips Through Myanmar’s Prisons