Covid-19 Hits Hard, 47 Countries Postpone Elections

By Deogratias Mmana

Coronavirus pandemic has forced at least 47 countries in the world to postpone elections while Singapore, Ivory Coast, Romania and Malawi are considering.

Malawi Electoral Commission sought the suspension for the July 2020 presidential election but the High Court advised that the application be made in the Supreme Court of Malawi.

National Elections Systems Trust Executive Director, Unandi Banda has called on the Malawi Electoral Commission to postpone the presidential election set for July 2 in the wake of COVID-19.

Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Indonesia have urged the suspension of regional elections scheduled for September, 2020 because the Election Commission suspended four major activities surrounding the updating of voters’ lists to ensure social distancing.

In Africa, seven countries have already postponed elections, according to International Institute for Democracy and Elections Assistance (IDEA). The countries are South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Gambia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

South Africa has postponed all by-elections and voter registration activities originally planned for March to May 2020. Tunisia has postponed municipal elections that were scheduled for end of March in Hassi El Ferid and Jbeniana.

Nigeria’s March 2020 by-elections in senatorial districts of Bayelsa, Imo and Plateau have also been postponed.

Gambia has postponed Niamina West Constituency by-election scheduled for April 16, 2020 while Ethiopia has pushed forward parliamentary election set for August 29, 2020.

Kenya has postponed by-elections scheduled for April, June-July 2020. Zimbabwe has also postponed its 16 April, 2020 by-election in ward 16 of Chiredzi District Council.

“Election preparations in South Africa and Ghana have been affected by COVID 19, in particular, voter registration,” says International IDEA on its page www.idea.int/news, adding “The funding for the local elections scheduled for October 2020 in Ukraine may decrease and redirected to help combat COVID 19.”

According to IDEA, the United States has postponed primary elections in 15 states due to Covid-19 pandemic. In Asia elections have been postponed in India, Pakistan, Maldives, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Iran, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Several elections have also been postponed in Europe in Austria, Gibraltar, France, Czech Republic, Hessen, Arrmenia, Spain, North Macedonia, Russia, Isle of Man, Latvia, Serbia, Cyprus, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy and Romania. Most elections were scheduled for March to April 2020.

In Oceania, local government elections scheduled for September 2020 have been postponed in New South Wales (Australia) while by-elections on Solomon Islands and government general elections in Papua New Guinea have been postponed.

In the UK, the Electoral Commission recommended to parliament that elections for the London Mayor, London Assembly, local elections in England and Wales and elections for regional police and Crime Commissioners scheduled for May 7, 2020 be postponed to mitigate social contact during election campaigning for elections, according to International IDEA.

Based on this advice, the UK government brought forward legislation to postpone the elections until May 6, 2021.

In Indonesia International IDEA Senior Programme Manager for Asia and the Pacific, Adhy Aman, suggested the need for alternative methods of elections to be considered during the COVID-19 crisis in addition to considering alternative dates for the postponed or suspended elections.

Chile has postponed constitutional referendum for six months from April 2020 to October 2020 following an agreement by 15 political parties.

Some countries have proceeded with elections despite the COVID-19. These include legislative elections in Israel in March 2020; local elections in France, Bavaria (Germany); local elections in Moldova on March 15, 2020; municipal elections in the Dominican Republic on March 15, 2020.

Others are primary elections in Arizona, Florida and Illinois and also parliamentary election rerun in 11 constituencies in Cameroon on March 22, 2020 and general elections in Mali on March 29, 2020.