Wednesday, 01 July 2020 07:59

Election bill likely to top Rs. 10 b due to COVID-19 preventive measures

The 5 August Parliamentary Election could cost around Rs. 10 billion with escalating expenditure due to the COVID-19 prevention measures that must be put in place, Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said yesterday.

He said with over 150,000 public officials to be deployed on election duty, around 350,000 face masks and thousands of litres of hand sanitiser would be needed to ensure that a poll is conducted according to the guidelines issued by the Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe and his team.

“COVID-19 has not been defeated. What we have is reasonable normalcy, and hence we are to ensure that neither during the election campaign, nor on voting day nor post-election, will there be room for the resurgence of the virus. We will be content if we can keep the cost at Rs. 10 billion without it going up further,” Deshapriya said at a media briefing.

He said mock elections have been conducted in all districts by now, and the shortcomings that were noted would be corrected in the next few weeks. The EC Chairman added that there was no final decision on whether to extend the hours of voting so far, and a decision would be made next week.

He said that the Gazette notification under the Quarantine Ordinance containing the regulations regarding holding the election during the COVID-19 outbreak too would be issued by next week. “There are three mandatory steps to be followed by all. They are using a face mask, washing hands, and ensuing they remain a meter apart. These everyone must heed,” he said. Deshapriya said so far there have been no complaints regarding violence related to the poll, and few related to misuse of state resources, even though there have been complaints of Police not applying the election laws in the same way against all violators. He said the largest number of complaints were regarding the spread of fake news and misinformation about candidates, and some complaints come from within the same party by one candidate against another. Deshapriya urged voters to ensure they vote on Election Day while adhering to the health guidelines.

“There are five weeks till Election Day. The election will go ahead as scheduled and all arrangements are in place,” he added.

The counting of votes will begin on 6 August at 7 a.m. and the first results are expected around 6 in the evening.

“We should be able to say which Party has won the Parliamentary Election by 10 p.m. on 6 August,” Deshapriya said.

Counting of preferential votes will take a day or two extra, he added.

(FT)

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