EU monitors say poll well-administered, some rules restrictive

Sri Lankan Elections

Aug 19, 2015 (LBO) – European Union election monitors said on Wednesday the parliamentary election in Sri Lanka was well-administered and offered voters a genuine choice from among a broad range of political alternatives.

“On top of the positive legal changes, these have been the most peaceful elections in Sri Lanka in a long time,” Ignazio Corrao, the head of the European Parliament delegation, which joined the monitoring mission, said.

“We would like to emphasis in particular the significant progress made over the last months.”

Freedom of assembly and movement was respected, although some campaigning rules were overly restrictive, Cristian Preda, the chief observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission, said.

Certain rules did not allow candidates to “engage in door to door campaigning, to canvass in person or distribute leaflets or posters,” although party activists and candidates campaigned vigorously focusing on small meetings with voters, the mision noted. There were also isolated reports of limitations to campaign freedom in the Northern province.

The mission added that party and campaign finance is not regulated. “There are no requirements regarding campaign spending limits or disclosure of donations and expenditure. The campaign was very costly with some candidates spending above EUR 500,000,” the monitors said.

Some specific issues should be reviewed including undue restrictions to suffrage rights, the absence of deadlines to adjudicate pre-election day complaints and disproportional sanctions for some election offences, they said.

A new electoral law that will set the framework for the electoral commission, improving accessibility to polling stations for people with reduced mobility, increased presence of senior presiding officer positions for the women in election day was also mentioned.

Although the campaign was assessed by stakeholders as largely peaceful, incidents involving firearms resulted in several deaths. There were also numerous cases of assault and arson.

“The major incidents, however, appeared to be isolated and did not lead to an escalation of violence.”

“Now is the time to seize the opportunity for a complete reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We look forward to strengthening the cooperation between our two Parliaments,” Preda said.

Preda added, the commissioner of elections and his staff administered the elections in a transparent and impartial manner, demonstrated strong leadership and enjoyed the confidence of all stakeholders.