Election fever hots up : Minority parties yet to name candidates | Sunday Observer

Election fever hots up : Minority parties yet to name candidates

15 September, 2019

The election heat is fast gaining momentum, with only a few more weeks to go for the much anticipated Presidential election 2019 to elect a new Head of State for a five-year term.

In the midst of speculation and allegations of some candidates getting preference by the polls staff, the election being postponed to next year and the date being fixed to astrologically favour a certain candidate, the National Election Commission (NEC) stressed that the Commission cannot be dictated to by anyone, be it another candidate or otherwise.

To emphasise its stance, the NEC has also decided to avoid two dates within the eligible period to schedule the Presidential election 2019. Hence, the Election Commission Chairman, Mahinda Deshapriya said they have decided to skip November 23, a date that has been speculated as to be favourable to SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa and December 7, a date said to have been cited by President Maithripala Sirisena as the election date.

“The idea is to clear any misconceptions that might overshadow the big election and voter confidence,” he said.

Divided decisions

“Very rarely have we taken divided decisions among the three of us in the Commission, and when there is a division, the three Commissioner’s go by the majority decision,” Deshapriya said citing the Elpitiya election date as one such instance.NEC Commissioner Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole had objected to conducting the Elpitiya Pradeshiya Sabha election on October 11.

However, Deshapriya said as per the Court order it was not the Commission but the District Returning Officer who had to take a decision on the election date.

The Commission was asked for its concurrence to hold the election and two Commissioners sans Prof. Hoole agreed that they could not prevail upon the Galle District Returning Officer to postpone the Elpitiya election beyond the Presidential election, because of the Writ of Mandamus issued by the Supreme Court.

A political party had also written to the Election Commission seeking to postpone the Elpitiya election citing that the election result might influence the Presidential poll later this year. However, the election is now scheduled for October 11.

Meanwhile the first poll officials’ meeting for the Presidential election is scheduled for September 20. The Election Commission staff including Deputy Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners will meet the District Secretaries to brief them on the preparations and conduct of the poll. The Commission has already met the Acting Inspector General of Police and the Senior DIG, Elections to discuss the security arrangements.

“We have also submitted the printing order for the first drafts of polls related material to the Government Printer,” the NEC Chairman said.

On September 17 the Election Commission members will meet the political parties and independent groups which have expressed intent to field candidates.

In addition, recognised political parties and groups which currently have alliances with parties represented in Parliament have also been invited to the meeting. The focus will be to discuss the elections law, dispute resolution and directives on do’s and don’ts to ensure a free and fair poll.

Already, 15 political parties and three independent groups have expressed written intent to field candidates. Among them are the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and the JVP led Alliance. The JVP breakaway, the Peratugami Party and the Janasetha Peramuna have also conveyed the names of their candidates to the NEC, even though they are yet to make the names public.

It is said that one time Inter University Student Federation (IUSF) President Duminda Nagamuwa will enter the fray as the Peratugami party candidate.

Election law

According to the present elections law, only former or sitting parliamentarians can contest the Presidential election as independent candidates. Deshapriya said the others who are first time contenders need to contest through a recognised political party.

“This is not a new rule set by the NEC, it is in the law book and we cannot change them,” the Chairman said.

As a result, if former public officials hope to run for presidency, as speculated, they will have to contest via a recognised political party. “There is no time to register a new political party now,” the Chairman explained, adding that a new party can be registered one month after the Elpitiya Pradeshiya Sabha election and by that time the election notice for the Presidential election may have been issued.

Up to now, none of the Northern province and Eastern province based minority political parties or up-country based Tamil political parties have expressed intent to field candidates at the Presidential Election.