COVID-19 Will Impact Election Campaigns, Kachin Political Party Says

Monday, July 6, 2020

Representatives of the Kachin State People’s Party (KSPP) say that it difficult to begin a campaign for the upcoming 2020 election amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions.

The Union Election Commission (UEC) announced that the general election will be held on November 8 throughout Burma, with parties starting their campaigns on July 1.

“COVID-19 guidelines are still active, so it is difficult to travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gumgrawng Awng Hkam, Vice Chairperson 2 of the KSPP, told NMG. “It doesn’t only impact our party, but it also impacts more or less all of the opposition political parties, except the current ruling party,” he explained, referring to the National League for Democracy (NLD)>

Doi Bu, Vice Chairperson 1 of the KSPP, added that there are also restrictions on group gatherings.

“Five people are not allowed to gather in one place. The government extended the COVID-19 order until July 15. On the other hand, the UEC announced that political parties can start their election campaigns,” she said. “The government’s order and the UEC’s announcement are contradictory. I don’t understand it. They said that parties can start their election campaigns but the order is we cannot gather more than five people in one place. For us, it’s difficult to hold a meeting.”

After the UEC released its statement, the NLD also released a statement on July 2. According to the NLD statement, the party’s chairperson State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Vice Chairperson 1 President Win Myint will start election campaign activities.

Ethnic political parties are questioning whether the election will be free and fair given the concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need a free and fair environment for the coming election,” U Gumgrawng Awng Hkam said.

The KSPP has said that if clashes continue in ethnic areas, ethnic people will likely lose their voting rights.

“If clashes continue in ethnic regions, it will be difficult to hold the election there,” Doi Bu told NMG. “There are no clashes in some areas, but there is no regional stability there either. If the UEC cannot set up ballot stations there, then our people will lose their voting rights.”

In Burma, the 2010 general election was held on November 7, the 2015 general election was held on November 8, and the 2020 general election is scheduled to be held on the same date.

The Union Solidarity and Development Party won a majority of seats in the 2010 general election, and the NLD won in the 2015 election. Some 25 percent of parliamentary seats and many key ministerial posts are reserved for the military, under the 2008 Constitution.