Ministry of State Counsellor Office holds press briefing on existing situations in relation to elections

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Director-General U Zaw Htay from the Ministry of Office of the State Counsellor. Photo: Ko Kyaw

Director-General U Zaw Htay from the Ministry of Office of the State Counsellor affirmed the prioritized policy of the government for ensuring an independent, free and fair election on 8 November during his press briefing yesterday on existing situations in the country ahead of 2020 General Election.

Organizing multiparty democracy elections
U Zaw Htay explained the reasons why the 2020 General Election could not be postponed despite the outbreak of COVID-19 as the time frame for commencing the third Hluttaw is related with the preparations for the election process that will need at least 77 days and the provisions of State Constitution.
He added that about 80 countries worked for holding elections and referendums between early 2020 and 1 November; among them 62 countries organized the elections; although 39 countries reassessed their plans, 22 countries organized the elections.
The director-general talked about the successful holding of Union Peace Conference- 21st Century Panglong with one-third in the number of attending representatives from 700 persons in line with the healthcare guidelines; however, the event could made agreements to establish a Democratic Federal Union in the post-2020.
U Zaw Htay also explained the five steps of preparations led by the State Counsellor in support to the Union Election Commission in accordance with the rules and laws—advance voting for elderly persons, voting rights for the eligible voters in the areas under stay-at-home order, coordination with the Ministry of Health and Sports for the voting of people at the hospitals or quarantine centres, the establishment of more polling stations up to 42,047 this year to avoid crowd in comparing with 40,233 in 2015 General Election and COVID-19 preventive plans for the elections after holding voting demonstrations to explore the healthcare measures in voting.

Elections are taking place
The director-general said that the advance voting began on 1 October at Myanmar Embassy in Singapore, and the number of voters increased by three-times in comparing with that of 2015 General Election; people at home are actively participating in the elections.
He continued to say that the elections play a crucial role in democratic reform processes and that the government has prioritized holding an independent, free and fair election. He also assured the Union Election Commission will not neglect any constructive criticism; however the recent announcement of Tatmadaw was likely based on the inaccurate and unreasonable remarks of some political parties and individuals, and that it may cause worry and instability instead of ensuring a free and fair election.
He remarked that the announcement of Tatmadaw and the interview of Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services with the Popular News media fail to meet the provisions of Constitution and the existing laws.
The director-general also referred to Article 26 (a) of 2008 Constitution and Article 2 (e) of Civil Service Personnel Law, while the Union Election Commission is an independent body and shall not be responsible to the Union Government.
He also recounted the advice of President on ensuring free, fair, transparent, independent and trustful elections during the meeting with UEC chairman and members on 8 July 2020, and it was also attended by the Union Ministers for the Ministry of Union Government Office, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Defence Services, the Ministry of Border Affairs, the Ministry of International Cooperation, the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and Sports, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, as well as the Union Attorney-General and commission members.
The director-general also pointed out that the UEC have only 9 days, 7 months and 4 years to prepare for the free and fair elections amid the outbreak of COVID-19 not to lost the rights of voters.
He also confirmed the announcement of UEC on 30 October 2020 in line with Section 66 (d) of Hluttaw Election Law, and such announcement was also made by the previous commission on 1 November 2015.
He then talked about disputes on advance ballots which also occurred in the previous elections of 2010, 2015 and 2020; criticisms of successive UEC chairmen.
The previous UEC received only 36 per cent of trust from the respondents in the survey of the Yangon School of Political Science and the Myanmar Asian Barometer. However, the PACE survey has shown the increase of public trust in the present UEC.
U Zaw Htay called for collaboration of relevant stakeholders for successful holding of the elections safely.
He concluded his explanation on the tasks of Union Government for completion of the general elections, challenges of UEC due to the lack of resources, the collaboration of ministries and legal actions against violation of laws during advance voting. The director-general answered the questions of media before concluding the press briefing.—Myo Min Naing (Translated by Aung Khin)

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