By Chandani Kirinde
There should be a normalcy in the country with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 eliminated to a substantial level by at least 15 May, if the General Election is to be held on 20 June, Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said yesterday.
“A minimum period of five weeks is required for candidates to campaign for the election, which would mean that the country should be free of COVID-19 by at least 15 May, so that a free, fair, transparent and credible election can be held,” Deshapriya told the Daily FT.
He said that an election can only be held after health authorities give the green light, while members of the Election Commission would also hold discussions with political parties, civil society representatives, and other stakeholders before a final decision is made.
“There musts be a level playing field for all political candidates to campaign, and officials must be free to go about undertaking preparatory work for the election without any hindrances. At the moment, things are not normal in the country because of the COVID-19 outbreak. We must see if that changes in the next two to three weeks,” he said.
Deshapriya said that in Sri Lanka, where around 75-80% of registered voters turn up for voting, an acceptable drop in voting due to the COVID-19 outbreak would be around 10%, but anything beyond that would affect the credibility of the poll.
“I have heard some say that even if 10% vote that is enough. It is true that there is no legal requirement for a certain percentage of registered voters to cast their ballots for the election to be valid, but if anything less than 60% cast their votes, people will question the credibility of such a poll,” he said.
The EC Chairman also said that its officials are preparing for polls and will continue to do so, but will meet once in every ten days to assess the situation in the country.