2020 election to be held under special regime amid pandemic

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     The president of Mongolia has proposed postponing the 2020 parliamentary elections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year's election is scheduled to take place on June 24 as there are no conditions to postpone the election according to the authorities. Due to the pandemic, a regulation has been issued on how the election should be organized. The regulation states to adhere to the Law on Elections of Mongolia, the Law on Disaster Protection, and the Law on Pandemic.

In accordance with Article 3 of the regulation, political parties, coalitions and candidates are to organize events, meetings and gatherings electronically with voters during election campaign. If it is not possible to organize electronically, halls for events, meetings or conferences are to be disinfected and cleaned in advance. The distance between participants of event should be at least 1.5 meters, and participants must wear masks when communicating with others. In addition, meetings and gatherings are to be organized in halls large enough to facilitate the stated guidelines or outside. The distance between chairs in venues should be at least 1.5 meters. Meetings and gatherings held in halls are to be held for a short period of time, with one-time meetings and gatherings not to exceed two hours in length. When a citizen joins an election campaign meeting in halls, public streets and squares, an employee of political party or coalition's election administration or candidate's manager are responsible for checking the body temperature of citizen and disinfecting their hands.

The regulation instructs to ensure maximum disinfection and sterilization. Particularly, doorknobs, escalators, elevator buttons, computers, telephones, and microphones in meeting halls are to be disinfected every two hours. The meeting rooms have to be opened every 30 minutes for at least 10 minutes to allow air flow.

Mongolians have been using masks since the outbreak of COVID-19 in China in December. The regulation states that it is prohibited to participate in meetings and gatherings without a mask. According to the procedure, in campaign events, if a citizen does not wear a mask, the candidate organizing the meeting is able to provide a mask, which is prohibited for advertising purposes. Used masks and other waste after meetings and gatherings are to be collected, sealed, and disposed of at an approved landfill.

When parties, coalitions and candidates distribute election campaign materials, the relevant employees must wear disposable gloves. In case of distribution of printed election campaign materials to households, they are to be left outside the door without contact with family members.

During the election campaign, a candidate is to keep a record of the place, time, number of participants, and route of the election campaign, document or photograph, videotape, and if necessary, provide this information to the competent authorities.

Rights and obligations of political parties, coalitions and candidates

In accordance with this election regulation, candidates from parties, coalitions, and independent candidates competing in the election have certain rights and responsibilities.

In particular, candidates have the right to receive information and advice from the relevant authorities on measures to be taken to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and make proposals and recommendations to the authorities.

During election campaign, candidates are obliged to follow the procedures, instructions, recommendations and warnings issued by professional organizations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, to appoint and employ staff to organize the pandemic prevention activities during campaigns and meetings, and are responsible for the costs required.

Prevention of pandemic when voting through mobile ballot box

Article 6 of the regulation states that polling station committee staff is responsible for hand disinfection. Participants' hands should be disinfected before and after polling. As mentioned above, voters and participants have to wear masks and disposable gloves.

Voting pens, mobile ballot boxes are to be wiped clean with an alcohol-based disinfectant solution after each voting. Used masks and other waste after voting are to be collected, sealed, and disposed of at an approved landfill.

Prevention of pandemic during polling at polling stations is to be organized and monitored jointly by the members of the polling station committee, civil registration officers, information technology officials, observers, professional inspectors, police, emergency and health organizations and local government officials.

Voting is to be organized in such a way as not to create gatherings at the entrance and exit of the polling station.

When a voter enters a polling station, their body temperature is to be checked and hands are to be disinfected, and if a voter does not have a mask, they will provided with one mask. The distance between voters should be at least 1.5 meters. After a voter’s fingerprint is scanned and their hands disinfected, the voter will wear the gloves provided to cast their vote. Voters will temporarily remove their masks from their faces during registration. When leaving the polling station, voters should dispose of their gloves in a special bin and disinfect their hands.

On May 28, Cabinet approved 2 billion MNT for these disinfection and sterilization measures during the 2020 parliamentary election.

In addition, a polling station is to be ventilated for at least 10 minutes every 30 minutes. It is also prohibited to bring a person under the age of 18 to the polling station.

Measures to be taken when suspicious cases are found during voting process

A person with symptoms such as fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, or muscle aches is found during election campaign or polling, it is to be considered a suspicious case, in accordance with Article 8.1 of the regulation.

An officer in charge of reporting suspicious cases and taking isolation measures is to be appointed in advance by the chairperson of the polling station committee at the polling station and during election campaign. Suspicious cases in conference halls, public streets, squares and public places should be isolated from others at a distance of 8 to 10 meters.

Suspicious cases should be reported to the National Center for Communicable Diseases in the capital city, the National Center for Public Health and the nearest health and police station.

Violators of this regulation are to liable in accordance with the Law on Infringements of Mongolia and other relevant laws.

Thus, the 2020 parliamentary election will be held under the new regulation. According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, at least 30 countries and territories have decided to hold national or subnational elections as originally planned despite concerns related to COVID-19, of which at least 14 have held national elections or referendums. For example, South Korea held its parliamentary elections, despite the on-going coronavirus pandemic, on April 15. During polling, voters had their temperature checked on arrival and wore masks and gloves. Similarly, if the above regulation is strictly adhered to, Mongolians will be able to hold the upcoming election without a risk, according to officials.

Misheel Lkhasuren