Sri Lanka’s Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya, a stickler for rules, has said he cannot give the voter turn-out in the parliamentary election just yet. Polling ended at 4 pm on Monday. It was a peaceful, and perhaps the quietest election that Sri Lanka has ever witnessed.
The official figures for the turn out will have to wait until later tonight, but unofficially, the turn out is being estimated at about 70 per cent.
The two main groupings in the fray for 225 Parliament seats are the Ranil Wickremesinghe-led United National Front for Good Governance, and the Mahinda Rajapaksa-led United People’s Freedom Alliance.
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Turn-outs were low across districts in the early part of the day, which led to speculation that the traditional Sri Lanka Freedom Party/United People’s Freedom Alliance voter base, confused by the split between President Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa, had stayed at home.
But it picked up later in the afternoon, and in all districts, according to unofficial estimates, it was 65 per cent or more, and in some, it was estimated to have touched even 75 per cent.
Going by the unofficial estimates, far greater numbers have turned out than the 61.26 per cent in the last parliamentary election that was held in 2010, which the UPFA won.
High turn-outs are usually associated with voters wanting a change. In the January 2015 presidential election, which saw Rajapaksa’s ouster, there was an 81 per cent turn out, the highest ever recorded in Sri Lanka.
The UPFA left office after Rajapkasa’s defeat, handing over to President Sirisena, who appointed a UNP government led by Ranil Wickremesinghe.
In this election, whether a high turn out is an extension of the January anti-Rajapaksa sentiment, or if this is an anti-Ranil Wickremesinghe vote is proving difficult to tell.
But the UNP, which has been in government only six months along with President Sirisena, has shared credit with him for bringing about positive changes in the country. There is no anti-incumbency attached to it yet.