General Election 2015 CaFFE Report No44: The most closely contested election after 2001 general election?
Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) carried out an election assessment across the island in the last week using our provincial and district coordinators, Long Term Observers and several teams from the Colombo office and listed below are salient points that emerged from the assessment.
1. Pre-Election period was peaceful. Although CaFFE has received 1802 complaints, most of them are minor incidents. Unlike in recent election where the ruling party carried out systematic attacks against the opposition, the four deaths that have been reported were of UNP supporters.
2. Misuse of state property was considerably less compared to recent elections. The misuse of public property has been inherent to Sri Lankan elections and in the last elections of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government such abuses were widespread often with the blessings of the most senior politicians. However during this election Sirisena and Wickremesinghe have not misused public property and have led the fight against the misuse of public property.
Five political parties have access to state resources, these are the United National Party (UNP), United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA), Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC). However due to the leadership of the President and Prime Minister and the fact that police is acting in an impartial manner has led to a minimization of the misuse of public property.
3. To be effectively carried out, a free and fair election must rest on a cluster of basic freedoms and rights. In addition it must transpire in a context where rule of law is upheld. Without institutional support and protection, the rule of law can not prevail, thus the process of free and fair election can't proceed as intended.
In recent elections, the Police Department, entrusted with upholding laws, acted in an extreme biased manner and was used by the ruling UPFA to harass political opponents.
However after the appointment of the 'yahapalanaya' government, Police seem to have taken a more pro-active approach in enforcing laws. CaFFE has compiled details of 400 incidents where people have been arrested and 40% of those arrested were UNPers, 39% are UPFA supporters and 21% belong to other parties. This shows that election law violators have been arrested regardless of the party associations.
1. All indications show that this will be a tight election. The minor parties will obtain between 24-27 seats and the remaining 195-200 seats will be divided between UNP and UPFA.
2. Poverty and power are once again important in the outcome of the elections. There is always a shift towards the political party in power/the party perceived to obtain power, this benefits the UNP. On the other hand the UPFA is reaching out to millions of poor voters through initiatives like Samurdhi. On the other hand the UNP government has not pressurized/ intimidated Samurdhi beneficiaries and those who obtain Samurdhi have seen a rise of the benefits they receive.
First 24 hours after the deadline for campaigning
The Commissioner of Elections stated that all campaigning must end on the midnight of August 14 and unlike recent elections all political parties adhered to the deadline. Police commenced removing election offices, except one per candidate, on Saturday (15) and by now most of the offices have been removed.
Apart from the incident where Kurunegala district candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa was found distributing silredi and the incident reported from Batticaloa where a UNP supporter was shot, there were no other serious incidents.
CaFFE believes that the peaceful situation prevails in the coming 48 hours and urge all to cast their vote for clean candidates who can meaningfully contribute to the nation