ANFREL Webinar Series: Observers face challenges, uncertainties in 2020 Myanmar General Election amid COVID-19 pandemic

Domestic election observation groups said during ANFREL’s webinar that they face several challenges in observing the Myanmar polls that are being conducted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the challenges are delays in the accreditation process of observers, difficulties in training and deploying observers, and uncertainties in the election process.

Authorities have imposed certain restrictions to curb the further spread of the virus in Myanmar which pose certain challenges to election stakeholders. The country is scheduled to hold the general elections on 8 November 2020.

Aung Naing of the Arakan Election Monitoring and Observation Consortium said they have applied for accreditation of short-term observers in Rakhine to the Union Election Commission (UEC) but are having difficulty in the issuance of their ID cards. He said applications for observer accreditation have to be submitted to the main office of the UEC.

Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint of the People's Alliance for Credible Election (PACE), meanwhile, said they are deploying 2,000 observers for the elections. He said because of the restrictions, they had to conduct the observer training online which proved difficult. The distribution of the equipment that the observers will use has also been difficult for PACE as they had to send the equipment to each observer instead of the usual practice of identifying on pick-up point.

(Top, L-R) Aung Naing of the Arakan Election Monitoring and Observation Consortium and Saw Zin Maung Soe of C.A.N. Myanmar.
(Bottom, L-R) Hpawdaw Naw Htoi of the Humanity Institute and Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint of the People's Alliance for Credible Election.

Hpawdaw Naw Htoi of the Humanity Institute and the other panelists said their organizations will strictly follow guidelines imposed by authorities but that these guidelines need to be spelled out clearly. They said observers are still unsure whether or not they will be able to access polling stations on Election Day.

They said they have also included in their observer training precautionary measures to be taken and have provided personal protective equipment to their observers. They said they pay attention to and constantly remind each other that health issues are important.

Saw Zin Maung Soe of C.A.N. Myanmar moderated the discussion.

This webinar is part of a series of webinars which aims to create public awareness on democratic elections and a platform for various groups to discuss election issues in the lead up to the 2020 Myanmar General Election.

The ANFREL Webinar Series previously discussed the importance of inclusiveness in elections, candidate registration, voter list display and voter education, and COVID-19 and the Myanmar polls. ANFREL is holding monthly webinar sessions to provide a platform for civil society organizations to discuss election-related issues and promote democratic elections in Myanmar.

This program would not have been possible without the generous support from the Canadian Embassy in Yangon and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

WATCH HERE: "ANFREL Webinar Series: Election Observation during the COVID-19 pandemic in Myanmar


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