Voting for the General Election-2015 has commenced at 7am to elect 196 members of Parliament. The voting is scheduled to end 4 pm.
Additional Elections Commissioner U. Amaradasa said, 15,044,490 voters were eligible to vote on the basis of the 2014 electoral register which was being used at this election. Nearly 200,000 officials will be deployed on election duty while the votes will be counted at the 1,600 centers set up for this purpose.
The hectic but relatively peaceful 33-day election campaign concluded at 12.00 midnight on Friday. Nominations to one of the most crucial and decisive parliamentary elections since independence ended on July 13.
One of the significant facets of the election campaign was the peaceful atmosphere when compared with the previous elections in the wake of the Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya taking upholding election laws to the letter using the powers vested in him through the 19th Amendment.
The Elections Commissioner and three leading election monitoring groups -- PAFFREL, CaFFE and the CMEV have deployed nearly 25,000 local observers and about 200 international observers to monitor the election.
The 12-member Commonwealth election observers who are in the country have expressed optimism that the peaceful atmosphere was conducive to the holding of a free and fair election.
Commonwealth Observer Group Chief and former Maltese president Dr. George Abeyla earlier said the group remained 'cautiously optimistic' because of the peaceful situation with all parties agreeing to uphold election laws.
He said Sri Lanka was well placed to hold a free and fair election but that the monitors would reserve their final judgement till the electoral process is over.
The observers are expected to visit the Western, Central, Northern, North-Central and North-Western Provinces in the next few days. Special attention will be focused on the 48-hour campaign-free period prior to elections as well as on the voting, vote counting and the release of the results.
Centre Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Executive Director Dr. Pakiyasothi Saravanamuttu said they had received complaints of 810 cases of election-related violence up to noon yesterday. He said 143 of them were of a serious nature which included four deaths and the use of firearms.
Meanwhile, Peoples Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said incidents of 1,121 election-related violence including two deaths had been reported up to yesterday
He said PAFFREL would deploy nearly 13,000 local and 14 foreign observers.
The United National Party (UNP) pledged to make Sri Lanka the ‘Centre of Excellence’ in all sectors within the next five years under its Five-Tiered Programme while the UPFA manifesto entitled ‘An Assurance for the Future’ promises a huge relief package for the people.
The JVP in its manifesto, ‘Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide’ promises to make Sri Lanka a prosperous and modern country with equal distribution of wealth and resources. The TNA which is the main party in the North wants voters to give it more strength at this election to achieve self rule, devolution of lands and police power, release of political prisoners from jail and the merger of North and East to make it a Tamil-speaking region.
Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said the Police Department would deploy 70,000 personnel and 4,000 STF personnel to conduct a trouble-free election and they would man polling booths, mobile patrols, riot control and roadblocks.
Meanwhile, Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya has ordered all private sector employers to grant paid leave to employees to cast their votes.
He said all employees were entitled to paid leave ranging from half a day to two days based on the distance to the employee’s polling station. If the polling station is less than 40 kilometers the work place, the employee is entitled to a half days paid leave while if the distance is 150 kilometers or more, the employee is entitled to two days paid leave.