Elections Commission tells parties dont campaign, fight the virus

ECONOMYNEXT – The National Elections Commission is urging all politicians to suspend their election campaigns and concentrate on combating the COVID19 virus pandemic.

In a formal announcement postponing the Parliamentary General elections issued Sunday, which were originally scheduled for April 25, Chief Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya says he also calls upon the parties to refrain from conducting campaigns “even in a roundabout way.”

He also asked all political activists to stop campaigning through the media and through the distribution of goods and services.

Deshapriya in a Media statement repeated his earlier assertion that the election date would be after May 14.

He added that the decision when the election would be held would be discussed after the Sinhala and Tamil New year season, sometime after April 20.

He also added that the preferential numbers for candidates would not be issued until the dates for the elections are set.

Deshapriya announced the indefinite postponement of the Parliamentary Elections on March 19, the day nominations for the elections closed.

He said that due to the disruptions in daily life caused by the virus pandemic and efforts to combat it had seriously affected the workings of the government.

As a result he said the Elections Department could not prepare for the voting, nor could it get the logistics organized.

“Even if the country was cleared of the coronavirus threat today (March 19) we cannot hold the election as scheduled,” he told reporters.

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Before the announcement the Commissioners consulted with various parties including Health Department officials, Deshapriya said.

“We need not consult with anyone, but we did so to inform ourselves,” he added.

Health Ministry guidelines for the general population say that people are advised to keep one-meter away from others at all times to avoid the transmission of the virus.

Election campaigns which require pocket meetings, large crowded rallies and processions would not be possible.

Even the actual voting where voters have to come to polling stations to be verified by elections staff and also have their fingers marked as a sign that they have voted, means many people will have to violate these guidelines.

Opposition parties had called for the poll to be postponed for months before the announcement. However Deshapriya said the decision could not be announced until nominations were filed according to the Elections Act. (Colombo, March 22, 2020)

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