Sri Lanka’s Ra­japaksa Brothers Set to Con­sol­i­date Power After COVID-Hit Polls

Fiji Sun - - ASIA/CHINA NEWS - AFP Feed­back: rosi.doviver­ata@fi­

Sri Lankans voted in large num­bers on Wed­nes­day de­spite the coro­n­avirus pan­demic as the rul­ing Ra­japaksa brothers sought to ex­pand their man­date through the virus-de­layed par­lia­men­tary polls.

The elec­tion - post­poned twice due to the epi­demic - closed at 5pm lo­cal time (11:30 GMT) after 10 hours of vot­ing, with strict hy­giene mea­sures in place to pre­vent the spread of the dis­ease. Pres­i­dent Gotabaya Ra­japaksa and his older brother Mahinda, the Prime Min­is­ter, are seek­ing a two-thirds par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity to roll back con­sti­tu­tional changes in­tro­duced by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion that limit the Pres­i­dent’s pow­ers.

An­a­lysts ex­pect them to eas­ily se­cure a ma­jor­ity in the 225-seat Par­lia­ment. Count­ing be­gan yes­ter­day and the first re­sults was ex­pected last night. The fi­nal re­sults are due late to­day. More than 70 per cent of the 16.23 mil­lion elec­torate was es­ti­mated to have turned out to vote, Elec­tion Com­mis­sion chief Mahinda De­shapriya told re­porters.

The turnout in the Novem­ber pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was more than 83 per cent.

Mr De­shapriya said there were “no ma­jor is­sues any­where” to war­rant the an­nu­la­tion of re­sults from any booths, ad­ding there were only mi­nor com­plaints of voter in­tim­i­da­tion.

Peo­ple had be­gun lin­ing up out­side polling sta­tions even be­fore they opened across the is­land. Mr De­shapriya was among the first to vote, say­ing he wanted to send a mes­sage that it was safe and that au­thor­i­ties had made de­tailed prepa­ra­tions to guard against the virus.

Face masks were manda­tory, vot­ers were re­quired to keep a so­cial dis­tance, and had to bring their own pen or pen­cil to mark their bal­lot pa­pers.

The health mea­sures made the poll Sri Lanka’s most ex­pen­sive at 10 bil­lion ru­pees (FJ$114.89 mil­lion), the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion said.

Sri Lankan Pres­i­dent Gotabaya Ra­japaksa (right) and his brother Mahinda Ra­japaksa.

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