Sri Lanka to vote to elect the ninth Parliament

2020-08-05 at 06:26

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka will vote at the 2020 General Election to elect the ninth Parliament. Voting will commence at 7am and will conclude at 5pm. Voting will take place at 12,985 polling centres in 22 electoral districts. Under the 2019 voter register 16,263,885 persons are eligible to cast vote at the Parliamentary Election. Although the election was scheduled to be held on the 25th of April, the poll day was postponed on two occasions following the outbreak of the coronavirus. 7,542 candidates are vying for 196 seats at the ninth Parliament. 3,652 candidates are contesting through recognised political parties while 3,800 persons have filed nominations through 313 independent groups. Only four recognised political parties have filed nominations to contest from all 22 electoral districts. 924 persons are contesting from the Colombo District for the 19 seats. 152 candidates are in the race to claim a Parliamentary seat from the Polonnaruwa District. 54 nomination lists including 34 from independent groups were accepted from the Digamadulla District. Seven MPs will be elected from the Digamadulla District. 1,785,964 persons are eligible to vote from the Gampaha district.

The National Election Commission requested voters to visit polling centres as early as possible to exercise their franchise. Chairman of the Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya requested all voters to adhere to election laws and to follow health guidelines issued to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The Elections Chief said health safety at all polling centres has been ensured. He noted that the coronavirus cannot be brought into polling centres, adding that one cannot contract the virus from polling centres either. Based on health guidelines issued to control the COVID-19 crisis, voters are required to maintain social distancing, wear a face mask, and sanitize hands before entering the polling booth. Voters have also been requested to bring a blue or black pen to mark their ballot. He added that voters who do not carry a pen, will be given a sanitised pen.

The Election Commission said voters must cast his or her vote by marking a cross(X) against the name and symbol of a political party or an independent group of choice on the ballot paper. Voters can mark a cross on the preferential number of not more than three candidates fielded by recognised political parties or independent groups in applicable cages. The Election Commission has warned that ballot papers without a vote for a political party or an independent group will be rejected. Ballot papers with vote marked for more than one political party or independent group or ballot papers that are not duly marked or scribbled on will be rejected. Ballot papers that are marked with preferences for more than three candidates will also be rejected. Around 350,000 election officials have been deployed on election duty.

The Election Commission also announced that a valid form of identity must be produced at polling centres to cast ballot. Accordingly, voters must be in possession of either the National Identity Card, a valid Driving License, a valid Passport, a Government Pensioners’ Identity Card, an Elders’ Identity Card, a Clergy Identity Card issued by the Department for Registration of Persons, a temporary Identity Card issued by the Election Commission or a special permit with the photograph issued by the Department for Registration of Persons. Meanwhile, electors who returned from overseas recently have been advised to bring their passports in addition to the NIC to establish their identify at polling centres.

Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe says persons who have completed coronavirus quarantine measures will be able to cast their vote after 4pm today. Dr. Jasinghe said voting will not take place within quarantine centres. Dr. Jasinghe added the decision was reached by the Attorney General. Accordingly, the Director General noted that those who completed 14 days in quarantine and 14 days in self isolation subsequently will be able to cast their ballot after 4pm. He also requested persons who completed quarantine to use their own modes of transportation in order to travel to polling centres with their families. Dr. Anil Jasinghe added that the same process will apply to individuals who contracted COVID-19 and have been discharged after recovering. He claimed that individuals in the first 14 days of their home quarantine will not be able to cast their vote. Dr. Jasinghe added 8,000 health workers will be deployed for election related duty. The Director General of Health Services said Provincial Health Directors, epidemiologists, District Medical Officers of Health and Public Health Inspectors will comprise the 8,000 officers.

Elections Chief Mahinda Deshapriya said in the event of any malpractices or incidents reported at a polling centre, the Commission will not hesitate to declare the vote null and void. Deshapriya said members of the Commission have agreed to invalidate the vote of entire areas if deemed necessary. Deshapriya said the election will be held on a later date if the vote is declared null and void at any polling centres.

The final results of the election are expected to be announced before midnight tomorrow, the 6th of August. Chairman of the Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya said all preparations are in place to promptly conclude the counting process. Deshapriya said he expects to release all preferential results before midnight on Friday. Meanwhile, the Election Commission announced that the counting of ballots of the 2020 General Election will commence at either 0700 or 0800 tomorrow. Counting will take place at 66 centres across the country.

Chairman of the Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya says he is hopeful of completing all processes and the issuance of gazette notifications pertaining to the General Election results by the 10th of August. Speaking to media, the Elections Chief said the release of the final results will depend on the transportation of ballot boxes to counting centres and the time taken to complete counting votes in the Gampaha District. He said as the Gampaha District has the highest number of registered voters, the release of the final election result will depend on the efficiency of election officials.

This is the first General Election in the country’s history that has had the longest campaigning period. The Election Commission has estimated a cost of Rs.10 billion for the election. The Commission attributed the expenditure to facilitate health guidelines that have been issued owing to the threat of the coronavirus.