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* International poll monitors say Sri Lanka general election was significantly less violent
Sun, Apr 11, 2010, 10:02 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Apr 11, Colombo: The international election monitors, who were in Sri Lanka to observe the country's parliamentary elections held on April 8, say the election environment was calm and significantly less violent than in any recent poll in Sri Lanka.

Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) with the cooperation of its local member People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) have sent 16 international observers from 10 different countries to observe the April 8th Parliamentary Election from April 1st through 10th.

The monitors, who have observed more than 170 polling stations throughout Sri Lanka on Election Day, have focused more on the lack of law enforcement by the Election Commission and the police force.

Many election law violations would not have taken place if there was a competent and courageous Election Commission, the monitors said in their preliminary report issued today.

The monitors suggested that the President of the country should maintain neutrality and not support either ruling or opposition parties.

Proposing a number of recommendations for meaningful and effective electoral reform, ANFREL members said the country needs to eliminate electoral impunity and ensure the rule of law to ensure a just process to bring about a more credible electoral process.

They suggested improving the voter education system prior to the elections. Although most of the voters knew the process the elderly and the illiterate voters had difficulties casting the ballots.

The opening of polling stations was on schedule as the election officers have prepared everything the night before and party representatives were present when the ballot box was opened and then sealed, they said.

However, the monitors recommended more privacy for the voters as the booths were situated in a way that enabled the election officials full view of voters marking ballots and there was ample opportunity for the polling officers to view a person voting.

In general, the polling process was conducted relatively well, they said, but had doubts about the process at the IDP camps as there were some reports of voter intimidation at the camps.

The monitors strongly criticized the practice of noting the voter ID on the counterfoil and ballot papers by the polling staff saying that it is unacceptable and urged to take adequate measures to stop such practices as they are illegal.

However, the Election Department says the practice is not illegal and has been carried out in general. The counterfoils are kept sealed and will not be opened except under a court order.

The Election Commission must specify why this was done and what is the purpose of recording such detailed, pinpointing information about the voter ID cards and their ballot numbers, the international monitors questioned.

The monitors criticized the candidates for conducting campaigns despite the barred period. Nearly all candidates violated election law with posters, cut-outs, PA systems, door to door canvassing and other campaign tactics barred under election law and continued campaigning until last minute of the polling day, the monitors said.

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