Election 2020

Over-60s in COVID-19 Hotspots to Vote in Advance in Myanmar’s Election

By Nyein Nyein 12 October 2020

Myanmar’s voters who are over 60 in townships under stay-at-home orders or with dense populations will have to vote in advance in the November 8 general election to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Ward and village-tract election sub-commissions will arrange advance voting from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5 to minimize coronavirus exposure, said the Union Election Commission (UEC).

In previous general elections, older voters could choose between voting at polling stations and casting advance ballots at sub-commission offices. For those who could not travel, the sub-commissions went to their homes and collected the ballots.

According to the 2014 census, over-60s represented about 4.5 million of Myanmar’s 54 million population. Myanmar has 38 million eligible voters aged over 18 for the November election.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in her address to the public on Thursday night that the UEC has initiated a plan for over-60s to vote early because the age group is of particular risk to COVID-19.

The UEC plan “will ensure safety and satisfaction for our voters”, she said.

On Sunday, Myanmar reported 27,974 COVID-19 cases with 646 deaths and 9,742 recoveries.

The UEC has refused to delay the election despite pro-military and other parties’ calls for rescheduling last month. The commission has promised comprehensive disease-prevention measures at polling stations.

Advance voting will benefit the over-60s, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, “as they are more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to their age”.

“The second benefit of this plan is that it will help to reduce the number of voters at polling stations on election day,” she said. Fewer voters means more physical distance between voters on Nov. 8.

“It will be safe for all,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, adding that the government will distribute masks and face shields to voters.

The state counselor will vote in advance as she is 75.

The UEC said 29 townships in Yangon Region and five townships in Mandalay Region are among the townships with dense populations of over 5,000 people per square kilometer.

Every township in Yangon, except for the Cocokyun islands, and in Rakhine State faces stay-at-home orders by the Ministry of Health and Sports following the case in the Rakhine capital, Sittwe, which led to the second wave of COVID-19 in mid-August. The number of cases continues to rise.

The health ministry enforced stay-at-home orders on 11 more townships in Mandalay, Bago and Ayeyarwady regions and Mon State in late September.

The UEC said last Thursday that those outside their constituencies could also apply for advance voting where they are living and sub-commissions will coordinate to allow voting and to count votes.

Nationals in other countries have been casting advance ballots at 45 embassies and consulates since Oct. 1.

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