Election 2020

Election 2020: The Week in Review

By San Yamin Aung 26 September 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. This week (between Sept. 19 and Sept. 25), the election commission dismissed calls for an election postponement over COVID-19; election-related violence was on the rise; a controversial party with a shady background came into the spotlight; and censorship of televised campaign speeches drew criticism.

No election delay for COVID-19: UEC

Saturday (Sept. 19)

UEC spokesperson U Hla Thein. / Myo Min Soe

Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) rejected pro-military and a few other parties’ calls to postpone November’s general election over COVID-19. The UEC said it wouldn’t postpone the election as a whole or in any constituency because of COVID-19, while pledging to ensure all necessary disease-prevention measures are taken at polling stations for the safety of both voters and polling station officials. Read the full article here.


Election-related violence on rise

Sunday (Sept. 20)

Two unexploded hand grenades found at the Naypyitaw UEC chief’s residence. / The Irrawaddy

More election-related violence including the use of hand grenades to intimidate an election official and rioting were reported over last weekend. Two unexploded hand grenades were discovered at Naypyitaw Election Sub-Commission Chairman U Thein Htwe’s home. The first grenade was found late on Saturday night and the second one was discovered at noon on Sunday, both of which were reportedly thrown into the compound from the street. In Meiktila of Mandalay Region, a USDP stronghold, hundreds of USDP supporters rioted at noon on Sunday, throwing rocks at the home of an NLD supporter. The USDP claimed NLD supporters in the village initiated the clash by obstructing their movements. At least six USDP campaigners were arrested. Read the other incidents of election violence reported since Sept. 8 here.


UDP, or ‘Rose Party’, in spotlight 

The UDP party campaigns for the November election. / UDP/ Facebook)

The United Democratic Party, better known as the Rose Party, came into the spotlight this week, with media reports focusing on the fact that the party will field more than 1,130 candidates nationwide— the second largest number after the ruling National League for Democracy—and its leader’s shady background. The less well-known party was established by U Kyaw Myint, also known as Michael Kyaw Myint or Michael Hua Hu—who was widely reported as an “escapee” from prison after being sentenced for running a company, Myanmar Kyone Yeom, that was involved in money laundering for the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in the 1990s. The UDP is campaigning with a promise that they will put the country ahead of Singapore within five years.

“You can put our party’s chairman into jail if we fail to improve the country within five years. And you can take down and put our party’s signboard into the fire,” reads one of its campaign messages. Read more about U Kyaw Myint here.


UEC accused of censorship 

A DPNS poster in Yangon. The party boycotted the broadcast after complaining of censorship by the UEC. / DPNS/ Facebook

Four political parties: the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), Arakan National Party (ANP), National Democratic Force (NDF) and Dawei Nationalities Party (DNP) said they faced censorship by the UEC in their televised campaign speeches, criticizing the act as oppression that harms freedom of speech.

The parties said they were told to remove or change the words including “civil war”, “oppressed” and “ignored” as well as to take out the parts or lines telling about children’s rights in Myanmar, controversial business projects affecting citizens; low public interest in the election due to COVID-19 and conflict and inequalities. The DNPS has boycotted the broadcast due to censorship.

From Sept. 8 to Nov. 6, political parties running in the election are allowed to deliver campaign speeches and explain their policies in 15-minute broadcasts. So far, 35 parties have taken part. Under campaign broadcast rules, parties must submit a script for the broadcast for the approval of the UEC. Read the story about the party’s boycott of the broadcast due to censorship here.


Early voting dates for Myanmar nationals overseas set

A Myanmar migrant fills in a form to register for early voting for the 2020 election in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok on Tuesday. / Nyein Nyein / The Irrawaddy

Early voting for the Nov. 8 general election will be held at the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok from Oct. 3-13, according to a labor rights advocate who was given the information by Ambassador U Myo Myint Than during a meeting on Thursday.

While for Myanmar nationals in Singapore, where more than 37,000 applied for early voting, it is set for Oct. 1-18, according to the website of the Myanmar Embassy in Singapore.

And in South Korea, the registered voters will be able to cast early votes from Oct. 2-5 and Oct. 9-12, and in Malaysia it is set for Oct. 9-11, according to the Facebook pages of the Myanmar embassies in South Korea and Malaysia. Read related story here.


More election related stories this week:

For Myanmar Voters, the Election Is a Chance to Cast a Ballot for Democracy Itself

A voter casts his ballot in Naypyitaw during the general election in 2015. / The Irrawaddy

For most voters in Myanmar, election day is a chance not only to vote for their chosen candidates, but to express their rejection of the authoritarian rule of the past.

Karen Ethnic Affairs Minister Candidates in Myanmar’s Yangon Square Off in Online Debate

(From left to right) Mahn Than Win Oo, Naw Susanna Hla Hla Soe and Naw Ohn Hla will compete for the Karen ethnic affairs minister post for Yangon Region in the November 2020 election.

Three candidates cover a wide range of issues while spelling out their differences of opinion.

Candidates From Four Parties in Myanmar’s Kachin State Face Off in Debate

People wearing traditional costumes dance during the annual Manaw Festival in Myitkyina, the capital of northern Myanmar’s Kachin State, in 2011. / The Irrawaddy

Three hopefuls from popular ethnic parties and a ruling party lawmaker touted their policies and grilled one another in a pre-election debate in Kachin State on Monday.

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Many Myanmar Migrants in Thailand To Be Denied Vote as Extra Polling Stations Ruled Out

Violence Erupts Shortly After Myanmar Political Parties Hit Campaign Trail

Man With Shady Background Behind a Political Party in Myanmar