Elections to the Western and Southern Provincial Councils took off to a slow start and picked up by noon, but voter participation was lower than in the past. Brisk voting was however noted in areas where the related candidates conducted very visible campaigns, but the situation was otherwise elsewhere. This trend was prevalent in all [...]



Free and fair WPC, SPC elections sans incidents amidst apparent voter apathy


Elections to the Western and Southern Provincial Councils took off to a slow start and picked up by noon, but voter participation was lower than in the past.


Brisk voting was however noted in areas where the related candidates conducted very visible campaigns, but the situation was otherwise elsewhere.

This trend was prevalent in all six districts- Gampaha, Colombo, Kalutara, Galle, Matara and Hambantota, that made up the two provinces, with voter turnout, two hours after voting began at 7 am, at a low 20 per cent.

This percentage increased later in the day, particularly in the Hambantota and Gampaha District where keen voters made it to the booths.

Brisk voting was seen in the Kesbewa, Kaduwela, Kolonnawa, and Maharagama areas, soon after polling commenced, while party leaders visited their respective booths early in the day.

In the Southern Province, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and members of his family were among the first to cast their votes at the Medamulana D.R. Rajapaksa Maha Vidyalaya.

Opposition and United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe also cast his vote early at Thurstan College, Colombo, while the newly appointed leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) Anura Kumara Dissanayaka voted at the Abeysinharamaya Temple in Panchikawatta.


The two provinces have nearly 5.8 million voters to elect 155 representatives belonging to 81 political parties and 42 independent groups, with the bulk in the WP that has 102 members and 53 in the SP.

Independent election monitoring groups said that voting was free and fair in both provinces, with few complaints of election law violations and none of a serious nature.

Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) Head, Keerthi Tennakoon, said that the UNP had deployed a lesser number of polling agents, while the JVP had a fair number in some 40 per cent of the booths monitored by his group.

He said there were a few issues of polling agents being turned away, but they were subsequently resolved with the intervention of officials.

However, he added that the Government had abused State resources in support of their candidates in the run up to the election, and this was widely witnessed in all six districts, with the election authority opting to turn a blind eye to the happenings.

Meanwhile, two persons were arrested in connection with the alleged assault of an election official on Friday evening at a location in the Matara District, Mr Tennakoon said.


He said the arrest was prompted after election officials threatened to withhold the counting of ballots in the area, if the suspects were not apprehended.

According to police, the suspects were supporters of a pro-government candidate.

In the Gampaha District there were contrasting voting patterns where some booths were near empty, while others were very active. An indication that certain candidates had made extra efforts to bring the voters by providing transport and other facilities.

Police presence was spread all over, with little or no incidents reported except in instances where certain individuals were handing out tiny cards in a last ditch campaign for their candidate.

Elsewhere, these cards bearing the number and the party colour of the respective candidate, were strewn around in their hundreds, in close proximity to polling booths, and the culprits were from all sides of the political divide.


Adding colour and interest into yesterday’s happenings was the presence of a large number of supporters of former army commander General Fonseka, mainly in his native village of Balapitiya.

Fonseka’s supporters were also active in Colombo city, from where he was elected to Parliament in 2010.

There were mixed reactions to the election by the voters who spoke to the Sunday Times.

Tyrone Fernando from Seeduwa said he was voting as a change was needed at the very earliest, because the people had lost faith and are bored with the present regional politicians.


“It is all play and no work for these politicians, and therefore, they should be unseated and replaced by more sincere persons who are committed to the welfare and interests of the public.” However, he did not wish to mention his choice of candidate or party at yesterday’s vote.

His views were endorsed by several others as well, but then there were also persons who appreciated work done by the previous administration, such as the paving of roads, construction of bus shelters and providing welfare facilities to children.


Simous Gomez, a fish trader from Negombo, said he was satisfied that several projects completed by the previous administration in the WP, and in the Gampaha District in particular.

“One cannot please everybody, and always, there are critics on all sides of the political divide,” he lamented. Mr Gomez voted for a blue candidate.

Senior Deputy Inspector General (SDIG) Elections Gamini Navaratne declared shortly after polling ended at 4 pm yesterday, that the elections ended on a peaceful note sans any incidents.

In addition to some 22,000 extra policemen pressed into special duty for yesterday’s polling, the elite Special Task Force (STF) were also deployed in and around counting centres to discourage any irregularities, and towards this end, he called for the cooperation of all the political parties.

He added that, however, the police will maintain vigil throughout the night and today as the counting of ballots continues at several centres in the two provinces, and election results announced from time to time.

Early results show UPFA victory

The first electoral result of the provincial council elections was released around 1.00 a.m. today.
Accordingly, the UPFA secured victory in the Beliatta electorate in the Hambantota district.
It received 32, 993 votes, while the UNP received 9,657 votes, the JVP 5,521 and the Democratic Party 2,173.
The UPFA also won the Hambantota District’s postal vote, winning 7,527 votes. The UNP got 1,761 votes and the JVP 1,440.

CaFFE receives 66 complaints

Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) received 66 complaints on election day of which three were related to threats and another assault.
Nearly 40% of the complaints were regarding election law violations.
The most serious incident reported was a clash in Beruwala between two groups resulting in three people sustaining stab wounds.
Keerthi Thennakon of CaFFE said many candidates were seen distributing their preferential numbers close to polling stations.
CaFFE had deployed around 840 election monitors and an additional 300 mobile groups to observe elections.

PAFFREL bemoans continued polls law violations, misuse of Govt. resources 

The People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) yesterday expressed regret and concern over the continuing violations of election laws, including abuse of government resources.
The PAFFREL in a report about the conduct of the polls, said that they received a total of 430 complaints from the Western Province (WP) and 385 complaints from the Southern Province (SP). On election day, the group received 105 complaints from the WP and 42 from the SP.
The report said that there has been evidence of increasing misuse of public property and government resources.
“PAFFREL notes with concern that significant and blatant violations of election law took place in a widespread manner and at the high levels of the government. Most of these violations were committed by ruling party candidates and senior members of the ruling party. This is a situation that all political parties and voters need to reflect on and consider taking appropriate action,” a statement from the group said.
“PAFFREL notes that violence has abated however we regret that the elections took place in conditions that were not adequately free and fair in both provinces,” it said.
Meanwhile, in a separate development, the Catholic church dismissed reports that the Church had called on Catholics to vote only for Catholic candidates from the WP and SP.
Spokesman for the Catholic church, Rev Fr Benedict Joseph told the Sunday Times that the church never made such a request, and was misleading to say that the church did so.
His denial came after several complaints were lodged with the Catholic Bishop’s conference about the reported call by the church.

How the UPFA fared then 

At the last PC polls held in the SP and WP in 2009, the ruling United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA) secured a comfortable majority in both Councils. On a district basis too, the UPFA secured more than half the seats.
In the WP, in 2009, around 63 per cent of registered voters cast their votes, while a 70 per cent turnout was recorded in the SP.


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