CMEV Calls for Postponement of General Election 2020
March 17, 2020 – The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) is urging the Election Commission to postpone General Election 2020 scheduled for April 25, 2020, in light of the escalating CORVID-19 pandemic.
Many 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. All election campaigning activities, including public rallies and meetings, also bring many people into close contact with each other.
CMEV notes that the ongoing spread of the CORVID-19 pandemic and government measures to combat it (including 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, and 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.
CMEV also 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 CORVID-19 pandemic.
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.
CMEV is 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.