Coronavirus affects elections worldwide

The people of Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu went to the polls this weekend to choose a governor after an unusually subdued election campaign. With the coronavirus outbreak dominating people's minds, the candidates canceled all indoor meetings and refrained from shaking voters' hands. Incumbent Ikuo Kabashima ran his ultimately successful campaign almost entirely online.

"The election was a special one with this virus spreading. It was hard to decide what to do, but I chose to focus on fighting the virus as governor rather than fighting the campaign", he said.

Officials disinfected polling stations for Sunday's election in Kumamoto.

That's a dilemma that politicians around the world will be facing this year.

Next month, Shizuoka Prefecture will hold a Lower House by-election. Officials plan to ask people to vote early to avoid crowds at polling stations. Staff will be directed to wash their hands and the stations will be thoroughly disinfected. But officials say they will not interfere with the campaigning, so each candidate will have to decide whether to make speeches in the street or have close contact with voters.

Health emergency versus the right to vote

In the United States, the Democratic Party is still in the process of choosing a candidate to take on President Donald Trump this November. Florida, Illinois and Arizona all held primaries on March 17, but Ohio called off its primary on the eve of the vote. Governor Mike DeWine said it would put electoral workers and voters at risk. He suggested the vote should be postponed until June.

The governor has no authority to postpone a primary, so he sought the approval of a state court. When the court denied his request, DeWine ordered the state's health director to shut down the polling stations, citing a public health emergency.

Governor DeWine decided to close all polling stations.

It was a controversial decision in Ohio. Some voters posted comments online backing the decision, others complained that they were deprived of their right to vote, and some said they would go to the polls regardless.

The states of Louisiana, Georgia and Kentucky have all postponed their primaries. Other states are calling for early voting and voting by mail.

Governments postpone elections

The British government has announced that nationwide local elections scheduled for May 7 will be postponed for a year. Londoners were also scheduled to vote for their mayor on that day.

Northern Macedonia and Serbia have postponed parliamentary elections scheduled for April.

South Korea presses ahead

South Korea, which has been seriously hit by the coronavirus outbreak, is due to go to the polls in three weeks to elect members of the National Assembly. The election is held every four years, with three hundred seats up for grabs. It is seen as a midterm assessment of President Moon Jae-in's administration.

Some want the election postponed, but for now it's going ahead. Campaigning will kick off officially on April 2.

The South Korean government plans to go ahead with National Assembly elections.

Around the world, there are many different views on the best way to handle voting in the midst of a pandemic, but one thing holds true in every case: how to deal with the coronavirus has become one of the main election issues.