Sri Lankan election chief asks people to vote without fear, says polling centres are safe

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Colombo, Aug 2 (PTI) Sri Lanka's election chief Mahinda Deshapriya said on Sunday that there is no threat of the coronavirus at polling centres as he asked voters to abide by health directives while voting in the parliamentary election on August 5.

'Voters can cast their vote without any fear during the poll,' Deshapriya, the Chairman of the National Election Commission, was quoted as saying by the News1st channel.

He asked voters to abide by health directives at polling centres.

Over 16 million voters are registered to vote on August 5 to elect a 225-member parliament for a 5-year term.

The COVID-19 pandemic which forced the postponement of the polls date twice has also resulted in a change to the votes counting.

The counting would take place only on the following morning - a departure from the practice of counting them from 8 pm on the election night.

The decision was taken to comply with the health guidelines to maintain social distancing and employ other COVID-19 preventive measures.

Deshapriya said that special security measures implemented at past elections will also be implemented together with new measures being introduced at the August 5 election.

The health guidelines had also placed restrictions on campaigning for the election.

The August 5 election is likely to be Deshapriya's last election as the Chairman of the National Election Commission.

Deshapriya said that while the term of the National Election Commission ends in November, he hopes to take time off from September for personal reasons, the Colombo Gazette reported.

'We (National Election Commission) have to go home on 13th of November 2020. I hope to take leave before that for some private work. So I may need to take time off from September 15,” he said.

Deshapriya said that he has been involved in elections for 37 years and that was more than enough.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on March 2 dissolved the Parliament, six months ahead of schedule, and called for snap polls on April 25.

However, the election commission in mid-April postponed the elections by nearly two months to June 20 due to the coronavirus outbreak in the island nation.

The commission in June informed the apex court that the polls cannot be held on June 20 because of the coronavirus pandemic and the new date was decided following a unanimous decision reached between the members of the commission.

Sri Lanka’s coronavirus tally currently stands at 2,816 with 11 deaths. PTI ZH ZH