Centre for Policy Alternatives on 31 January, 2010

Presidential Election 2010: Statement on election day observations

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27 January 2010, Colombo, Sri Lanka: On 26th January, Election Day, CMEV deployed 3,790 monitors in mobile teams and
in polling stations throughout the island.

On Election Day, CMEV recorded a total of 178 incidents of which 94
have been categorised as Major.  The highest number of Major incidents –
26 cases of Intimidators’ Presence in the vicinity of polling stations-
was recorded in the Kandy District. Eight (08) of the 94 Major
Incidents involved the use of firearms. The Kurunegala District, which
recorded the highest number of Major incidents during the campaign (36),
recorded 04 incidents of violence in this category on Election Day,
illustrating a feature noted in other elections of a high incidence of
campaign violence not being replicated on the day of the election.

In comparison with the violence recorded on Election Day in the 1999
and 2005 Presidential Elections, Election Day of the 2010 Presidential
Election was considerably less violent. In 1999 there were 816 Major
Incidents and in 2005, 242.

The Interim Report released by CMEV contains its observations on the
election campaign. In it we noted our concern about the challenges to
the electoral process highlighted in the election campaign which ranged
from the flouting of the authority of the Election Commissioner to the
abuse of state resources to problems with voter identity documentation
and voting arrangements for IDPs as well as the high incidence of
violence in this our first post war, peace time election in decades. 
Accordingly we reiterated our call for the implementation of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, in particular the establishment of
independent commissions for the Police, public service and Elections, it
provides for.   We made the point that the Seventeenth Amendment does
not constitute a panacea and that it is not a sufficient measure to
ensure the integrity of the electoral process, but rather a pivotally
necessary one.

The concerns raised in our Interim Report remain.  We wish to
highlight three issues in addition to the incidence of violence recorded
on Election Day.  The first relates to the demonstrably unsatisfactory
transport arrangements for IDP voting, which resulted in the effective
disenfranchisement of a number of IDPs.  In a Media Communiqué on
Election Day, CMEV highlighted the case of 300 IDPs who on account of
delays in transport were unable to vote after having waited hours for
that transport.  CMEV learns that they were left stranded thereafter and
that there were other IDPs who were placed in a similar predicament.

The second issue relates to the series of explosions in Jaffna that
occurred before polling commenced and immediately thereafter. CMEV
believes that these acts of violence were perpetrated to reduce the
voter turnout in the peninsula and calls on the agencies of law and
order to bring the perpetrators of this violence to justice.  Such
violence in particular compounds the challenges of peace, reconciliation
and national unity.  Likewise, the effective disenfranchisement of the
IDPs.  The free and fullest participation of the people of the north in
the democratic process of the country is to be welcomed, not impeded and
undermined.

The final issue CMEV wishes to highlight is especially critical and
relates to the concerns raised by party agents and members of the public
about the integrity of the count. CMEV shares these concerns and has
received complaints alleging that party agents were both assaulted and
chased from counting centres in a number of districts.  Complaints to
date have been received from the Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa
and Matale Electoral Districts.  On 27 January, CMEV wrote to the
Commissioner regarding this, urging him to publicly acknowledge and
address these concerns before the official announcement of the final
result.

CMEV will issue a full report on both the campaign and Election Day
once all field reports from its monitors have been compiled.

On the available evidence and information in its possession, CMEV
believes that the problems in the electoral process identified above
need to be urgently addressed.  This is essential to ensure that the
doubts and concerns expressed over the results of this election do not
persist and undermine the integrity of our electoral process as well as
the legitimacy of our governance.