Friday, July 22, 2011

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Conditions in place for free and fair poll

  • Friday, July 22, 2011
  • Aruntha Kanagaratnam
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  • The Elections Department yesterday said that all arrangements are in place to ensure a free and fair Local Government election today to elect 875 members to 65 local government bodies, including one Municipal Council and nine Urban Councils.

    Voters will cast their vote at 2226 polling stations in areas where the Local Government election was put off.

    Voters in the Jaffna peninsula will elect members to man 23 local government bodies after a lapse of three decades.

    The government won 205 out of 234 Local Government bodies in April. The Illankai Thamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) secured second place by winning 12 Local Government bodies while the UNP won nine.

    The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress won four, National Congress two, The Upcountry People’s Front one, while an independent group won one LG body.

    Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshpriya yesterday requested all eligible voters in 65 Local Government bodies to exercise their franchise early to avoid unnecessary congestion in the evening.

    Deshapirya added that any incident which is deemed to be detrimental to the conduct of a free and fair election will lead to the cancellation of election in the particular local government body.

    He added that no person other than President, Prime Minister, the Speaker and the Opposition Leader can be photographed. The Commissioner added that the first result would be released by 10 pm. He said that the department would be able to issue the final result by tomorrow morning.

    Deshpriya said that strict regulations would be in place over the videoing and photographing of polling centres. “The media is allowed to cover the casting of vote by the President, Prime Minister, Speaker and the Opposition leader only” , he said.

    Photographing or videoing of polling stations and casting of votes is completely prohibited and the Senior Presiding Officers who allow to take photos of those casting votes other than the President, Prime Minister, Speaker and Opposition Leader would not be deployed in election duties in the future.

    The Commissioner yesterday informed all media organizations not to give publicity to any candidates or group who say that they have left their party and claimed to have joined another one. He also requested the media not to give publicity to any candidate who claims to have refrained from contesting the election. Meanwhile, the Police department yesterday said a 25,000 strong police contingent will be deployed in all areas where Local Government election will be held today to ensure free and fair election.

    According to Senior DIG Elections, Gamini Navaratne, these police officials would be deployed to provide security to over 2200 polling stations and counting centres.

    Nawaratne said that special security would be provided for the transport of ballot boxes to the counting centres. “We have planned a special security network covering all the areas where election is to be held today to prevent post election violence.” He said the Election Law will be implemented to the letter and any persons who violates the Election law would be arrested irrespective of their status.

    The Elections Department has received 97 election related complaints and 47 of them are violations of election law, Navaratne said.

    He said 137 persons who were charged with violations of election law have been arrested by the Police.

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