02 October 2020
- Large election rallies will drive up COVID-19 infection curve, while virus risks reducing turnout in November, undermining vote’s legitimacy
- Further travel restrictions and business closures likely in coming weeks, which will increase economic hardship and public frustration with government
- Ruling party will continue to resist calls to postpone elections, as rising socioeconomic problems due to containment measures could reduce its support in later polls
Approximately 10,000 supporters of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) attended an election rally for the party in Loikaw, Kayah state on 25 September. Following the rally, the director of emerging infectious disease at the Ministry of Health, Khin Khin Gyi, warned against all gatherings – including rallies ahead of elections due on 8 November – in light of a significant increase in daily new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. The Union Election Commission (UEC) has however maintained its refusal to postpone the vote, saying on 19 September that it would go ahead as planned, despite pressure from the Union Solidarity and Development Party and 23 other political groups.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country remained low between the first reported case on 23 March and mid-August. Since then, however, the number of daily new cases has risen substantially, with over 1,000 new cases reported for the first time on 24 September, and again on 1 October. This has prompted heightened restrictions in the worst-affected areas – Rakhine state, which is under a stay-at-home order, and Yangon region, which remains subject to curfews and travel constraints. The restrictions have worsened commercial disruption in the country, with the government for instance extending an international travel ban until at least 31 October and Ayeyarwady’s administration closing all garment factories in the region from 24 September until 7 October following an outbreak of cases in the regional capital…