Election postponed over COVID-19 impact

Friday, 20 March 2020 00:26 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



  • EC says impossible to hold polls on 25 April under any circumstances
  • Says election calendar gone haywire with emerging situation
  • Decision on new date will depend on success of preventive measures
  • Nominations handed over by yesterday will stand
  • Gazette on postponement expected by 25 March

The Parliamentary Election fixed for 25 April has been postponed until further notice, Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said yesterday, as the country grapples with the growing threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya 

- Pic by Ruwan Walpola

“The EC has decided that the election cannot be held under any circumstances on 25 April even if the health authorities and the World Health Organisation (WHO) tell us tomorrow that the threat from COVID-19 has been completely eradicated. Our election calendar has gone haywire in the past few days due to the coronavirus,” Deshapriya told reporters at a press conference last afternoon.

The announcement came as nomination for the 2020 Parliamentary Polls closed at noon yesterday and amidst growing calls from political parties and election monitoring groups to postpone the election given the developing situation with COVID-19.

The Election Commission will use powers vested in it under the Parliamentary Elections Act No. 1 of 1981 which provides for the postponement of an election, where, “due to any emergency or unforeseen circumstances” the poll for the election in any electoral district cannot be taken on the specified date. 

The EC is empowered to appoint another day for the taking of such poll but the day so fixed has to be after 14 days after the publication of the Order in the Gazette.

The EC expects to issue the relevant Gazette on 25 March after it issues the Gazette containing the names of the candidates of each recognised political party and independent group whose nominations have been accepted for election as a MP, the approved symbols allotted to each party or group and other such details.

“We believe the Commission will receive the finalised details next week and we should be able to publish that Gazette as well as the Gazette on the postponement of the polls by 25 March,” Deshapriya said.

However, the new date for the Parliamentary Elections would depend on how the programs to combat the spread of COVID-19 progress. “The election date will depend on COVID-19, the Task Force appointed for the preventive programs and the citizens of this country,” he said.

Deshapriya said the decision to postpone the polls had been take after discussions with health authorities and other stakeholders. “The election date will also be decided after discussions with the task force,” he said.

It was pointed out that logistically holding the election on 25 April was impossible given the extra public holidays that were given and the upcoming New Year season. “Postal voting applications are lying at post offices due to the closure and we have to give dates for these. Election officials will also have to work during weekends to sort out the issues,” he added.

The nominations handed over by yesterday will stand, Deshapriya said, adding that there was no room for cancellation unless someone goes to Court or it is done by Parliament. But with Parliament dissolved, this seems an unlikely scenario.


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