One million more voters for Presidential poll

President expected to make announcement tomorrow; January 23 possible date
By Satarupa Bhattacharjya

More than 14 million Sri Lankans will be eligible to vote at the upcoming Presidential Election — an increase of more than a million voters since the last poll in November 2005, according to officials at the Department of Elections.

The new figures emerged as President Mahinda Rajapaksa is set to sign a proclamation tomorrow declaring a Presidential Election. It is expected to come later tomorrow and will trigger the official process for the poll. Two weeks after the proclamation, the Commissioner of Elections is required to announce the date for nominations.

When nominations close, he will officially announce the date for the election. There were indications yesterday that the Department of Elections will call for nominations from either December 9 or 10 and call for the poll on January 23 next year.

Elections Department officials told the Sunday Times an estimated 14,088,500 Sri Lankans would be eligible to vote at the upcoming poll. There were 13,327,160 registered voters during the Presidential Election in 2005.

According to the revised 2008 poll registers which will be used for an upcoming election, the electors’ base has increased by 5.4 percent since 2005. Whilst the Elections Secretariat will find it easy to issue poll cards to voters in most electorates, it faces a problem with regard to those in the war-ravaged Wanni region.

Whilst some are still in camps for the internally displaced, in the recent months they have been moved out to locations in the Jaffna peninsula and the East. A Secretariat official said they might have to send teams or seek the help of District Secretaries to make a count of voters as a prelude to issuing poll cards. They said they would also require Tamil speaking officials for gathering information in the Wanni and the Jaffna peninsula.

During the 2005 Presidential Elections, as many as 10,748 polling booths were set up nationwide. During the upcoming elections, the number will increase to more than over 11,000, officials said.

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