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For over 15 million people, today has special significance because they can make a direct impact on the future of Sri Lanka. For over two months, the public have had the chance to see and hear the policies and issues of the various political parties, and now is the chance to decide what would be best for themselves as well as the rest of the country. 

Sri Lanka’s voter base is undergoing a shift. As a society that is gradually becoming wealthier and more knowledgeable they are moving away from pure party politics to voting based on issues. The first national indication of that came during the 2015 Presidential Election when people of different backgrounds banded together to vote, based on a principle rather than a party resulting in an unprecedented electoral upset. The Local Government polls today will decide whether the public has shifted away from those policies or if they remain as steadfast as ever. However, one thing is certain. The people must speak.

Disgruntlement over political issues is rampant in Sri Lanka. As a population that is strongly engaged in political affairs, it seems as though this is all that people sometimes talk about. Aside from mainstream media, even the social media space is littered with rants of political issues and sometimes pointed remarks addressed at a specific political leader or party. This has a positive aspect in that it shows a high level of political awareness but this can only be constructively funneled for the good of the country if people exercise their precious franchise. 

So important was the vote that many campaigned for decades and lost their lives for women and the disenfranchised to have the right to vote. The right to vote was a golden thread woven into the history of the fight against oppression and still stands today as a basic right that every citizen is entitled to. The revoking of civic rights by a State is reserved only for criminals and in many countries after prisoners are released and rehabilitated their civic rights are restored to them because of the belief that for a person to be fully a part of society they should have the right to participate the decision making process of that community. 

Given the importance of the vote, it is truly disheartening if voter apathy keeps people away from polls. Just as much as the public should participate in discourse and dissent of political culture, the decision they make by choosing to vote is also an integral part of a democratic society. No country can move forward in strengthening its democracy unless people continue to participate in the democratic process. Elections are the initial building block of a democracy and without this first tier it is impossible for strong institutions to be formed that will provide deeper checks and balances of power. 

In Sri Lanka efforts are being made to deepen democracy by improving transparency and accountability but this process can only be successful if the people make wise choices. Today is the day to step out and make a choice that counts.       


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