Election 2020

Myanmar’s Main Opposition Party Accuses NLD of COVID-19 Rules Breach During Campaign

By Htet Naing Zaw 9 September 2020

Naypyitaw — Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) chairman U Than Htay has accused the National League for Democracy (NLD) of violating health guidelines during its election campaigning.

The campaign for the November general election started on Tuesday. U Than Htay said he saw hundreds of NLD members campaigning in two villages in Naypyitaw’s Zayarthiri Township, where he is contesting a seat. The chairman said he will question the Ministry of Health and Sports about it.

“There were hundreds of cars and people. We will ask the ministry today if such activities are in line with government COVID-19 health guidelines. Who will regulate it?” U Than Htay asked reporters as the military’s proxy party kicked off its election campaign at its headquarters in Naypyitaw on Wednesday.

“If the people who must set an example to the country turn a blind eye to the rules, it will be hard for this election to be free and fair. We are concerned that the election won’t be fair,” said U Than Htay.

His NLD rival for the Zayarthiri seat, U Maung Maung Swe, said the party is following campaign regulations.

“Only two candidates and the campaign team went, following COVID-19 regulations. Some supporters came by bike. I requested them to disperse and go back,” said U Maung Maung Swe.

He added that he asked supporters three times not to follow them.

“We went around and they followed us. We can’t order them not to follow us. I did not notice the number of people. The other candidate and I went to the NLD flag hoisting ceremony in line with COVID-19 regulations,” said U Maung Maung Swe.

The Union Election Commission (UEC) bars political parties from campaigning, including rallies and door-to-door campaigning, in areas where the government has issued stay-at-home orders. The UEC has also instructed candidates to wear masks and face shields.

U Than Htay said: “If other parties follow suit, who will control it? We assume the country is under the rule of a government that cherishes democracy. Democracy embodies equality. It doesn’t make sense that those in power can do whatever they like and others can’t.”

There are eight seats in the Lower House and two seats in the Upper House up for grabs in Naypyitaw Union Territory, with 76 candidates from 12 political parties and independent candidates contesting the seats.

Naypyitaw has a population of over 1 million with civil servants and military personnel making up a large proportion of its population.

According to the UEC’s preliminary voter lists, around 860,000 people are eligible to vote in November.

A total of 43 candidates contested in Naypyitaw in the 2015 general election. The NLD secured seven seats in the Lower House, two seats in the Upper House and the USDP won a Lower House seat.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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