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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Sri Lanka stages mock election to test coronavirus measures

The parliamentary vote was postponed after the first COVID-19 cases were reported in the country. Sri Lankan authorities have received praise for their coronavirus measures - considered one of the best in the region.

By: Deutsche Welle | Updated: June 15, 2020 8:49:53 am
Sri Lanka parliamentary polls not possible in June, says election commission A Sri Lankan police officer in protective suit directs porters outside a market place in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, May 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Sri Lanka on Sunday conducted a mock election exercise to test its coronavirus measures ahead of a parliamentary vote in August.

The election was scheduled for April 25 but was postponed indefinitely after the COVID-19 outbreak. The election commission said Wednesday the vote would now be held on August 5.

“We were very pleased to see that all those who volunteered to take part in this exercise today wore face masks,” said election commission chairman Mahinda Deshapriya.

“Officials and polling agents will be behind clear plastic screens or wear face shields. We have also ensured that voters will stand a meter apart when they queue up.”

Voters will also be required to bring their own pen or pencil to mark ballot papers.

The virus has so far infected nearly 2,000 people and killed 11.

A high testing rate coupled with an established healthcare and monitoring system has helped keep COVID-19 mortality in the island nation low.

Political vacuum

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who won the November’s presidential polls, is hoping to secure a two-third majority in parliament, which would give him sweeping powers to govern the nation.

Sri Lanka is essentially functioning without a legislature to check the executive’s power, and constitutional activists call for the old parliament to be reconvened until it’s safe to hold elections.

In the political vacuum caused by the coronavirus lockdowns, Rajapaksa has strengthened his grip on government offices by appointing former military officials to a number of key positions in ministries.

In the absence of a legislature, Sri Lanka’s coronavirus response is being steered by the Rajapaksa-led executive and the military.

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