Election 2020

Myanmar Sets Up Voting Abroad in Advance of November Election

By San Yamin Aung 6 July 2020

YANGON—Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) has said nationals living abroad must register by Aug. 5 to be able to cast advanced ballots in this year’s general election.

Myanmar will hold its general election on Nov. 8, with nearly 100 political parties vying for a total of 1,171 parliamentary seats up for grabs in the Union Parliament and the state and regional legislatures.

The UEC announced that voters abroad can get registration forms for advanced voting at their relevant embassies or download the forms from the websites of the UEC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Myanmar embassies. Prospective voters must return the form between July 16 and Aug. 5.

Advanced voting is a major concern raised by political parties as it is hard to monitor. In the 2010 and 2015 elections, it was a cause of disputes and allegations of fraud.

UEC Chairman U Hla Thein previously said that the commission will prevent the upcoming election from being rigged by advanced votes.

“There were reports of election fraud in advanced voting in previous elections to change the results. We will prevent such things from happening in the 2020 elections,” he said.

According to the commission, voters abroad cast more than 6,000 votes in advance of the 2010 election and more than 20,000 votes in advance of the 2015 election. Both numbers are very low compared to the number of documented migrants from Myanmar living abroad. There are more than 4 million documented Myanmar nationals living abroad, according to census data. Most of them are in Thailand and Malaysia.

Daw Mya Nandar Thin, from election monitoring group the New Myanmar Foundation, said it is crucial for voter turnout to ensure that migrants are well-informed about the election and can cast their votes smoothly, especially given the COVID-19 crisis.

The UEC also said that officials from government training centers, schools, hospitals and jails will organize advance voting on designated days between Oct. 8-21 for locally-registered voters who will be outside their constituency on the election date. This group of advanced voters includes civil servants attending trainings, prisoners and people receiving care at hospitals, among others.