CMEV says free and fair elections unlikely under current conditions
ECONOMYNEXT-The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) is calling for the postponement of the General Election which is scheduled to be held next month, in the light of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.
Faced with a COVID19 pandemic it is not possible to ensure a free and fair election, it said.
In a statement, the election watchdog states that activities required for holding the election bring many people into close contact with each other, thereby posing significant risks of viral transmission.
“This includes thousands of election officers, party officials, Police officers and election observers being in close proximity to each other at the thousands of polling stations and counting centres across the country; physical contact between election officers and voters as voters are marked with indelible ink and handed ballot papers and the handling of the same ballot paper by numerous election officials for vote counting purposes,” it stated.
CMEV added that all election campaigning activities, including public rallies and meetings, also bring many people into close contact with each other.
Also, CMEV notes that the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and government measures to combat it which includes the closures of schools and other public venues, restrictions on mass gatherings and travel restrictions are likely to have a significant impact on voter turnout on Election Day.
It pointed out that many voters would be discouraged from voting due to fears of being in close proximity to many others at polling stations. This also broadly impacts voters’ right to freely exercise their vote, and the ability to hold a free and fair election.
Further, CMEV notes that elections scheduled to be held during the months of March to May have been postponed in many countries including the United Kingdom, France, India and Spain due to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement also went to say that in terms of postponement, the Election Commission can formally request the President to withdraw Extraordinary Gazette 2165/8, which would have the effect of reversing the dissolution of Parliament and the calling of an election.
“The Election Commission can alternately, under the gazette with the notice of poll it will issue after the close of nominations, postpone the election unilaterally under the powers it will acquire thereafter,” it added.
CMEV also states that they are prepared to offer any assistance it can and work with the Election Commission to ensure that General Election 2020 can be held under conditions where Sri Lankans are able to exercise their right to vote in a truly free and fair manner.(Colombo/Mar18/2020)
Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe