Free and fair elections a matter of dignity for country and the people

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A voter casts an advance vote for the general election on November 8 at a polling station in Bago in 2019.

After the Union Election Commission-UEC set November 8 as the date for the general elections, the focus will now intensify on ensuring that the general elections are free and fair, and safe from coronavirus. There’s no question about it: Holding successful elections amidst COVID-19 is going to be difficult. Therefore, ministries concerned are obliged to help the UEC which has performed an important service to the nation.

For the safety from spread of coronavirus, all hands from the local authorities and election officials must be on deck for ensuring our voters are at the polls on November 8, spaced at six-foot intervals and wearing masks. Besides, hand sanitizers or washing facilities must be available for washing their hands before and after casting vote. Provided they passed a temperature screening, they are able to vote in the parliamentary elections.

We are confident that we can do it with the participation of the people because we have shown our effective response to the coronavirus pandemic since the outbreak happened in our country. In any democracy, citizens have the fundamental right to free and fair elections, with their votes counted in a transparent and credible manner, as political parties and candidates have the right to compete in elections without harassment or intimidation.

To be free and fair, it is important to prevent disinformation and hate speech; and incitement must be removed from social media and other online platforms in a timely manner by authorities. No one should be above the law regarding elections, and enforcement should be tightened to prevent violations of the law. Also, educating the people is a must, as part of efforts to prevent disinformation and hate speech against women candidates.

Meanwhile, elections are about more than just what happens on the day of polling, therefore, we would like to urge losers of fair elections to quickly accept election results once they are final. Any election irregularities, even those conducted during a crisis or emergency such as COVID-19, should be resolved consistent with fair election principles, recognizing and resolving disputes in good faith.

To make the elections a success, to build trust among those participating in the electoral process, and to make the elections free and fair, abiding by the Code of Conduct is sine qua non for political parties and candidates. The UEC is committed to holding the 2020 general elections in accordance with five standards: freedom of choice, fairness, transparency, accessibility, and compatibility with public desire. Holding free and fair elections is a matter of dignity for the country and the people.

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