(Commonwealth Observer Group in Sri Lanka)
The Commonwealth Secretariat today released the final report of the Commonwealth Observer Group to Sri Lanka’s 2015 Parliamentary Elections.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma made the observers’ findings public after they were sent to the Government, Commissioner of Elections and political parties following the elections.
Writing in the foreword to the report, the Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former President of Malta Dr George Abela said: “Our overall assessment is that these 2015 Parliamentary elections fulfilled the key benchmarks for a democratic election and that the electoral process was on the whole transparent, peaceful and credible.”
Among the recommendations offered by the Observer Group is a call for measures that make it easier for women to enter politics at the national level and a proposal that Sri Lanka take a “zero-tolerance” approach to election violence. The Group also concluded that the Government should reconsider restrictions on campaigning methods as well as consider legislation on campaign finance.
The report praises Sri Lanka’s Commissioner of Elections and his Office for “having maintained high standards of fairness” and the country’s police for enforcing the law and ensuring a peaceful election.
More than 6,000 candidates from 21 political parties and 200 independent groups contested the 17 August election, which saw 225 members of parliament elected. The United National Party (UNP), which led the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) coalition, increased its vote share and formed a government with the support of some members of the opposition United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).
Nine women were elected to Parliament, with just one nominated on the national list, meaning women make up only five percent of the total seats in Parliament.
Just under 200 incidents of election-related violence were reported in the campaign period, including three deaths, grievous assaults, attacks on political party and candidate offices, and abductions, the Commonwealth observers note.