Election 2020

Myanmar’s Election Commission Rules Out Postponing Election Due to COVID-19

By San Yamin Aung 21 September 2020

YANGON—November’s general election will not be postponed due to COVID-19, Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) said, while pledging to ensure all necessary disease-prevention measures are taken at polling stations.

Amid an upsurge in COVID-19 cases in the country, the former ruling and military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and 23 allied parties—most of which are pro-military and didn’t win any seats in the 2015 election—sent an open letter to the UEC last week asking it to delay the poll.

A few other parties have also called for the election’s postponement, citing concerns over public health and difficulties in campaigning under COVID-19-related restrictions.

Myanmar has set its general election for Nov. 8. While that is seven weeks away, the country is now in the grip of a COVID-19 resurgence with hundreds of cases reported per day. The death toll is also on the rise.

Responding to the parties’ call for a postponement, UEC member U Myint Naing said during an online media briefing on Saturday that there would be no delay in the election due to COVID-19.

“We won’t postpone the election as a whole or in any constituency because of COVID-19,” he said.

He said the commission would ensure that the necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are taken at polling stations, for the safety of both voters and polling station officials, in line with the Health Ministry’s guidelines.

To allow for greater social distancing, the number of polling stations has been increased from 40,000 to more than 50,000, and the maximum number of voters allowed per station will be reduced to 1,500 from 3,000.

The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) last week also said voting should go forward as planned, as delaying it would create too much political uncertainty.

Some critics have raised concerns that holding the election amid the COVID-19 outbreak would affect voter turnout, saying many voters would be reluctant to go the polling stations.

The commission dismissed the concern, however, predicting that voter turnout would be high despite the COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, decisions on whether voting will have to be delayed in some townships for security reasons due to ongoing conflicts will be announced in early October, U Myint Naing said.

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