ANFREL Hopes for Peaceful Polls in Sri Lanka
On August 5, over 16 million Sri Lankan voters are invited to cast their ballots in South Asia’s first major elections since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially scheduled for April 25, the polls had to be postponed twice.
On the eve of this exercise in democracy, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) reminds the eligible voters who wish to exercise their franchise rights to wear a face mask, wash their hands, and practice social distancing as they do so, in accordance with the guidelines issued by health authorities.
We recognize the extraordinary steps taken by the Election Commission of Sri Lanka to ensure the parliamentary elections would take place in the safest conditions possible in the 12,985 polling stations set up nationwide. Confident in the security measures to be implemented, the Chairperson of the Commission Mahinda Deshapriya declared that a polling station would be “the safest public space” and invited voters not to be afraid .
We also wish to commend the contributions of the country’s health authorities, security forces, media, and civil society working together to promote a safe, peaceful, and transparent voting environment for all.
For the first time in decades, there will be no international observers deployed in Sri Lanka for a national election, due to the country’s lockdown and limitations on international travel. Nonetheless, ANFREL will be conducting an assessment of the Elections through an innovative methodology.
Indeed, ANFREL has deployed six assessment team members to the districts of Kurunegala, Polonnaruwa, Jaffna, Trincomalee, and Nuwara Eliya to monitor polling and counting processes. In addition, electoral experts remotely conduct interviews with various electoral stakeholders in Sri Lanka through modern communication technologies.
The assessment report to be released at the end of August will cover Sri Lanka’s experience in holding a general election amidst a pandemic, and identify lessons to be learned from it. We hope it will prove valuable to other countries that are preparing to hold elections in the months or years ahead.
As always, ANFREL’s methodology will adhere to international standards set forth in documents such as the Bangkok Declaration on Free and Fair Elections, the Dili Indicators on Free and Fair Elections, and the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation.
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