Monday, 26 Oct 2020

Myanmar won't postpone November polls, election official says

YANGON (BLOOMBERG) – Myanmar will hold the Nov 8 general election as planned by ensuring social distancing measures at polling stations across the country even as Covid-19 cases surge, an election commission official said.

“We don’t have any plan to postpone the general election for Covid-19 reason,” Mr Myint Naing, a member of the Union Election Commission, told reporters in an online briefing on Saturday (Sept 19).

The commission has a strategy to prevent the virus from spreading at polling stations, in line with the health ministry’s guidelines, he said.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is facing pressure to delay the general elections as a resurgence in coronavirus cases resulted in a strict lockdown across parts of the nation.

Opposition parties led by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party wrote to the Union Election Commission this week to demand that the poll be postponed because of the jump in infections.

The number of polling stations will increase to more than 50,000 from over 40,000 planned previously, Mr Myint Naing said.

The area of each station will be expanded to allow for physical distancing, while each venue will serve a maximum of 1,500 voters, half the usual number, he said.

Myanmar nationals abroad can cast their ballot via embassies in the countries that they reside in. The number of eligible voters will increase to 38 million from 37 million when overseas voters are taken into account.

A total of 6,969 candidates from 93 political parties plan to vie for 1,171 seats at central and provincial parliaments.

The election commission will announce the list of constituencies where elections will be postponed for security reasons in early October, Mr Myint Naing said.

Polls may be delayed in townships in the Wa self-administered division and some parts of Rakhine state, he said.

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