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