Elect The Best 225
Over 16 million Sri Lankans are scheduled to cast their vote today (5), to form a 225-member Parliament for a five-year term, amid concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Sri Lanka’s national election body, the Election Commission, earlier said that it had estimated that General Election 2020 being held today would cost a staggering sum of around Rs 10 billion.
Over 7,000 candidates are contesting the Election representing major and small political parties as well as independent groups. However, today’s Election will be different to any other election Sri Lanka has seen so far, as it is being held under a number of strict precautionary measures, put in place by health authorities to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Even though the Election was initially set for 25 April following the dissolution of Parliament in March, owing to the drastic rise in COVID-19 cases in the island, later, authorities decided to postpone the Election, triggering various debates over conducting the Election immediately after the country began to return to normalcy. While some who remarked upon the date of the Election opined that Sri Lanka is still not completely safe from COVID-19 and that holding the Election at this juncture would therefore be tantamount to ignoring the gravity of the COVID-19 situation, some voiced their concerns over the practical aspects pertaining to the Election. In this context, taking into account the fact that the COVID-19 situation in Sri Lanka is gradually becoming stable, the Election was set for today. Declining number of COVID-19 cases and mounting recoveries are actually a relief to all Sri Lankans.
As Sri Lanka’s official State body entrusted with the task of holding elections, the Election Commission has assured that measures have been taken, with a great deal of planning with authorities in the health and law enforcement sectors, to see to it that no voter contracts COVID-19 at polling centres.
The Election Commission also said that no room will be left for any form of risky physical contact between two persons, and that adhering to COVID-19 health guidelines - such as wearing face masks, maintaining one-metre distance between two persons and using hand sanitisers - is mandatory. Voters were also instructed by the authorities to bring their own pen to mark their vote to avoid physical contact. It was also announced recently that the Election Commission was expecting to spend worth of Rs 10 million for hand sanitisers alone, for the Election today.
The Election Commission earlier considered the possibility of giving opportunity for people placed under quarantine and self-quarantineto cast their vote through a mobile polling centre programme. However, it was announced recently that this programme will not be put into action and that people under quarantine will not be given the chance to vote.
However, a decision was made to allow people placed under self-quarantine to vote under certain instructions. Among other steps taken by the authorities to pave way for the Election was, imposing restrictions on election campaigns organised to raise awareness and garner voters’ support, including public meetings, rallies and canvassing. In the run up to the General Election, it could be observed that majority of political parties as well as candidates took fresh and exemplary steps to ensure that COVID-19 guidelines are adhered to.
After months of pressure and debates, and amid the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 situation, the General Election is being held today. In this Election, voters are expected to do two things – i.e. using their right to vote to elect law-abiding and honest 225 candidates, and adhering to COVID-19 health guidelines at the polling centre. Voters are urged to consider these duties they are expected to fulfil for the future of the motherland.