Election 2020

Myanmar’s Election Body to Decide on COVID-19 Election Delay in October

By Nyein Nyein 3 September 2020

Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) said any delay to the Nov. 8 general election because of COVID-19 will be announced next month.

Myanmar is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases. As of Thursday morning, the country has reported 1,058 cases, along with six deaths, since the first case was reported in March. A jump in cases has prompted questions about if the election will be held as scheduled and how voting can be safely conducted.

U Myint Naing, the UEC’s spokesman, said: “We will decide after reviewing the situation in October.”

He said the body planned to establish more polling stations than for the 2015 election, where there were over 40,000 stations. Polling stations would also be more spacious, where possible, to comply with COVID-19 health guidelines, U Myint Naing said.

“Anyone who arrives at a polling station by 4 pm will not lose their right to vote, as in the previous election,” he added.

Anyone at a polling station by 4 pm can vote, even if the time passes 4 pm. The voting window is between 6 am and 4 pm.

Despite preparations, it is likely that some constituencies may not be able to allow voting due to ongoing conflicts, particularly in Rakhine and Shan states.

The UEC will name the constituencies where voting will not take place in October.

In the 2010 and 2015 general elections, various constituencies in Shan State, including five townships in the Wa self-administrative zone, did not take part.

The UEC has so far approved 8,120 domestic observers from eight civil society groups and two international NGOs to monitor the November election.

The observers registered are from the New Myanmar Foundation, Hornbill Organization, Phan Tee Eain (Creative Home), Kadu Youth Development Association, Rainmaker, Bago Observer group, People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (Pace) and Election Education and Observation Partners, according to U Myint Naing. The UEC held a press conference on candidate registration on Wednesday in Naypyitaw.

The international observers are from the Carter Center, established by the former US president Jimmy Carter, and Asian Network for Free Elections.

The UEC-approved observers can monitor polling stations nationwide but COVID-19 is causing challenges for observers too.

Daw Khin Lay Nge, the director of Phan Tee Eain, said the organization only had 450 observers this year, compared with 1,750 in 2015.

Pace’s 2,900 observers were added this week. Director Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint said the group was initially rejected because it is not a registered association.

It had 2,500 observers at the 2015 election and has monitored the electoral process since the voter lists were released. The group also monitored the 2017 and 2018 by-elections.

Anyone who wants to observe the election must submit their forms by Oct. 15.

During the 2015 election, there were 11,370 domestic observers from 53 organizations and 764 international observers from six election-monitoring groups.

A total of 6,969 candidates are registered to compete for office in November. The UEC is due to announce rules for the candidates to follow during the election campaign, which starts next week.

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