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