Political parties worry COVID-19 will affect election campaigns

May 8, 2020

HURFOM: On May 4, 2020, U Myint Nine, spokesperson for the Union Election Commission (UEC), told State Media the general election will be held this November. However, political parties are worried the restrictions on people’s movements and restricting the size of  gatherings to no more than 5 people,  will impact election campaigning.

In order for the general election to take place in November, the UEC must officially announce the date this June in order to allow political parties adequate time to prepare. According to the Mon State Election Sub-commission, the UEC has  not officially announced that a general election will  be held in November this year.

The UEC must give us two months for the election campaign. This is in accordance with the election law. The UEC must manage not to have an impact on campaign period. If UEC announcement comes very close to the election date, that will  have a bad impact on our campaign,” said Nai Layi Tama Secretary #1 of the Mon Unity Party (MUP).

Other political parties voiced similar concerns.

Now, the pandemic is happening in our country so we’re worrying that we don’t have enough time for the election. We’ve gone to villages and remote places to meet with our party members, but now we can’t do that because of the “Local Order” (restricting movement and size of crowds). If the disease is still happening in August, we’re surely in trouble,” said U Win Maw Oo, State Secretary of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Parties are calling on the UEC to develop concrete methods and rules, with their inputs, that will detail  how campaigning should proceed given the restrictions created by the presence of C-19. 

There has been a suggestion that election campaigning take place online.  U Win Maw Oo responded to this idea, “If we look at the whole country, we have questions.  If the internet is widely used. This is a problem. Some areas are underdeveloped and some don’t have electricity. There are too many people who can’t use the internet. Online campaigning is theoretically possible but it has too many challenges at the ground level. On the other hand, “Local Orders” ban people from gathering,  so our scope is very limited.”

He added that voters need to have contact with those seeking to represent them, without this interaction, he fears it will impact voter turnout. 

There is no problem in technologically advanced countries but we aren’t in a perfect country. Despite the ruling party, all political parties have been struggling with getting access to the media [regarding the election campaign],” continued U Win Maw Oo.

Political parties want to meet with the UEC to discuss what concrete election campaign rules and regulations can be developed as Covid-19 crisis continues.

All election campaigns must be in accordance with the rules of the UEC so it’s important that (the UEC makes sure) all political parties have equal rights,” said Nai Layi Tama.

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