Sri Lanka holds mock poll to test COVID-19 guidelines for parliamentary election

Sri Lanka’s election commission has held a mock poll in the southern Galle district to test the COVID-19 health guidelines and its preparedness for the parliamentary polls likely to be held between late July and mid August. The parliamentary polls were initially to be held on April 25, but had to be postponed due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which prompted the authorities to announce a nationwide lockdown from March 20. Later, the election commission shifted the date to June 20. It was again deemed not suitable in view of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed 11 lives and infected over 1,900 people in the island nation. A majority of the patients have been cured and discharged from hospitals. Some 200 voters from the Ambalangoda polling division in Galle district were chosen to ‘vote’ at the mock poll, according to an official. “We wanted to learn from the exercise so that the lessons can be applied at the real election when it happens,” senior election commission official Saman C Ratnayake told reporters at the Buddhist temple hall which was used for the mock poll. The selected voters were given instructions at their homes on Saturday and were asked to bring along a pen to mark the vote while wearing a face mask. The election commission said they had formulated guidelines to conduct the polls in close cooperation with the health authorities. Election chief Mahinda Deshapriya said the guidelines were revolving around social distancing, washing hands and wearing face masks. At the mock poll, attention was given to the time it takes to cast a vote while sticking to the health guidelines. The poll date to elect a 225-member parliament is yet to be announced. According to officials, it is likely to be held anytime between late July and mid August. The opposition parties and civil society groups have challenged the holding of the election in the midst of health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 16 million voters are eligible to vote to elect 196 members under proportional representation and a further 29 members on national cumulative votes of each party based on proportional representation.

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