Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar Election Official Says Nation Will Go to Polls This Year Despite COVID-19

By San Yamin Aung 5 May 2020

YANGON—Myanmar’s general election will be held this year as planned, an official of the Union Election Commission said, downplaying concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the timing of the polls.

There has been widespread speculation that the nationwide polls slated for this year will be delayed or rescheduled amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

According to the Constitution, the terms of all current national and subnational parliaments will end on Jan. 30 next year.

Election Commissioner U Myint Naing said in an interview with state-run radio posted on the commission’s Facebook page on Monday that the commission will hold the general election this year as planned. The exact date of the election has yet to be announced.

In announcing the election date, the commission said it will follow the procedures used prior to the 2010 and 2015 general elections. The commission announced the dates for those general elections, which were held in early November of 2010 and 2015, two months and four months ahead of the polls, respectively.

“Political parties need to start preparing for the election now,” U Myint Naing said, adding that this included the selection of candidates as well as representatives to observe the voting at polling stations.

Monywa Aung Shin, secretary of the ruling National League for Democracy’s Central Information Committee, said the coronavirus outbreak had disrupted parties’ preparations for the elections.

He said selection of the NLD’s candidates had been delayed because the party’s offices had been forced to close in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The NLD originally planned to finalize candidate selection by the end of June, he said.

This year, at least 52 countries have postponed national and subnational elections across the globe, according to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). A total of 19 countries have decided to continue with election plans this year despite concerns related to COVID-19. Of those, at least nine had done so already as of April 30.

Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint, executive director of the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE), said it was the commission’s responsibility to ensure that all procedures related to the election—including the displaying of voter rolls, voter education and election campaigning—are conducted safely if the election goes ahead amid the coronavirus pandemic.

U Myint Naing, the election commission’s only designated spokesperson, was not available for further comment despite several attempts to contact him by The Irrawaddy.

About 100 political parties are expected to contest the 2020 election.

Additional reporting by Zue Zue

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