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SL should lobby for legal reforms of EC

19 November 2019 03:15 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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While concluding Sri Lanka’s presidential election observation, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) yesterday highlighted that the country should focus on reforms to enhance the legal power of the Elections Commission (EC).

Presenting the mission’s preliminary statement, Chief Observer Marisa Matias said a legal framework was generally adequate for holding democratic elections but required important reforms to address enduring gaps, restrictions and legal uncertainties.

“As a general observation, we can highlight that the Elections Commission had well managed the election process without having large-scale violence. The election day was peaceful; we reported only a few violent incidents and the voter turnout happened within 83%,” she said.

She said though the whole campaign on the ground was largely peaceful and clam, as long-term missions, the country should focus on implementing legal reforms on campaign finance and to regulate instances of bias, hate-speech and disinformation.

“There was a peaceful campaign on the ground contrasted with divisive incidents with hate-speech and disinformation which traditionally spread around social media. The absence of campaign finance law and biased election coverage continued on both State and private media affected the whole process,” she said.

Ms. Matias added that the Elections Commission could have been more proactive and provided its explanations on voting patterns within a proper legal framework. She also notified the lack of women participation in a political framework.

“The participation of Sri Lankans in the election was very high and this was their day to exercise their right to democratic choice, and I hope that our observation has in some way contributed to their confidence in the process,” she said.

She also notified that there they observed 329 polling stations across the country and visited more than 25 counting centres during the election process.

Election observation deployed 80 observers holding 30 long-term observers and 30 short-term observers. Long-term observers were in the country for about one month before the election and also there were five delegation members from the European Parliament.

“Our mandate is to carry out observation of the entire election process independently, by sticking to the principles of neutrality, impartiality and non-interference in any stage of the process,” she opined.

Endorsing preliminary findings and conclusions of the observation mission, the head of a delegation of members of the European Parliament, Isabel Santos, underscored that the result of the election was a sign that Sri Lankans wanted to work together and politicians and larders needed to understand this and act to unite the country.

“We have observed well-organised and peaceful elections. However, the action is needed to reinforce the legal framework, in particular regarding campaign finance transparency, and to level the playing field for candidates and parties in the media,” she said. (Yoshitha Perera)

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