The Korean Ambassador to Nigeria, H.E Lee In-Tae (Rtd. Maj. Gen.) has met with Hon. Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 to share Korea’s experience on election management in times of COVID-19 and discuss ways of providing practical support for the upcoming Edo and Ondo states 2020 governorship elections of Nigeria.
Along with facial masks, a brochure on ‘Responding to COVID-19’ was specially designed and distributed to Nigeria’s INEC in order to provide a clear picture of Korea’s successful factors on the general elections.
“Nigeria is considered one of the strongest democracies in Africa, and under your leadership, I believe that Nigeria’s voting system has been growing strong and stable,” Mr. Lee In-Tae commented during the meeting with the Chairman of the INEC.
Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, the Republic of Korea successfully held its 21st general elections on April 15. Being one of the first countries to hold national elections during the pandemic, many countries showed great interest in Korea’s election management policy and a number of foreign media covered the country’s elections. The overall turnout stood at 66.2 per cent, recording the highest in 28 years with over 29 million voters at the polling place. The election successfully ended leaving zero cases of suspected or new infections of COVID-19, derived by the election.
Referring to the guidelines on COVID-19 prevention measures, the 21st general elections was held under strict and systematic voting procedures handled by the National Election Commission(NEC) of the Republic of Korea to block and prevent the spread of COVID-19 through mutual cooperation with related agencies such as the Korea Centers for Disease Control(KCDC) and the Ministry of Interior and Safety(MOIS).
The NEC set out various measures including the establishment of voting and counting procedures, disinfection of polling stations and ensuring the suffrage of persons in quarantine or those with confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Wearing masks and disposable gloves, using hand sanitizers and getting a temperature check was obligatory at polling stations. Also, various stickers and collapsible belts were used to guide voters to keep distance of at least 1 metre from each other. Last but not least, separate polling stations were established for voters with symptoms or high temperature for precautionary measures.
Voters with a temperature higher than 37.5℃ received a special envelope for the ballot and voted in a temporary polling station. After voting, if the voter had any symptoms, they were guided to contact the public health centre for next steps. For confirmed COVID-19 patients, they were eligible to vote from home or visit special polling stations installed at facilities where COVID-19 patients were isolated. Quarantined voters were able to vote after the closing of general voting at 6:00pm, at a temporary polling booth installed in a well ventilated location. These people were temporarily allowed outside from 5:20pm to 7:00pm, to allow themselves to vote and immediately return back to their residences afterwards.
During all these processes, staff were also requested to strictly follow the precautionary guidelines. All staff were to wear masks and gloves at all times and make sure that the total number of voters waiting inside the polling station was limited in order to maintain social distance. Unnecessary conversation was minimized and election equipment including polling booths, marking devices and ballot boxes were disinfected on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, overseas voting was held at Korean diplomatic missions worldwide and over 40,000 Korean expatriates have voted from abroad. Strictly complying with the safety regulations, Koreans residing in Nigeria voted from April 1st to 3rd at the Embassy of Korea.
Thus, to protect the people’s right to vote, the election was expanded into 5 different methods to make voting more accessible. First, home voting(March 24-28) was provided for people who were unable to move freely. This enabled them to vote at the place they were residing. Then, overseas voters or sailors on board vessels had the chance to do overseas voting(April 1-6) or shipboard voting(April 7-10). Early voting(April 10-11) was provided for voters not able to vote on the election day. A total of 3,508 early polling stations were set up across the country, and could be accessed without prior registration. Finally, on the election day voting(April 15), a total of 14,330 polling stations were installed and operated from 6:00am to 6:00pm.
“The success of Korea’s elections was possible because the Korean people trusted and voluntarily followed the guidelines provided by the government,” Mr. Lee In-Tae mentioned. “Voting procedures were informed in advance so that people will feel safe to vote, and Korean authorities continued to provide up-to-date information transparently so that the people will trust the government,” he added.
Winding up the meeting, the Ambassador concluded by expressing his hope to continue close and friendly relationship in the future with the INEC.
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