MEETINGS & EVENT

AAEA Observers Mission : SRI LANKA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, 2010

AAEA Observers Mission

 

AAEA Observers Mission

SRI LANKA PRESIDENTIAL  ELECTION, 2010

ELECTION OBSERVATION REPORT

20-29 January, 2010    

    Queue of voters  - 26 January 2010

 

  1. Click to download ELECTION OBSERVATION REPORT (full text)

  2. Click to download PRESS STATEMENT - 28  January 2010  (full text)

  3. Click to see more PHOTOS

0. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In November 2009, the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapakse decided to seek a mandate from the people for a second term after completion of four years of his first term which ends in November 2011. Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake, the Commissioner of Elections, announced on 27 November that the presidential election will be held on 26 January 2010.

This is Sri Lanka’s sixth presidential election and it is the fourth time that the Association of Asian Election Authorities (AAEA) has been invited by Commissioner of Elections Mr. Dissanayake to send an observation mission.

On this occasion, however, the AAEA, under the leadership of its Chairman Mr. Rai Hau Min – also the Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Taiwan – sent Forty-one observers from member commissions. Due to the urgent and pressing commitments, Mr. Rai was unable to Head the Mission. In his stead, he recommended Dr. Pan Wei-Ta, who now serves for the CEC as a Commissioner, to take up the job to head the Mission on his behalf. Accompanying Dr. Pan were election authorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Nepal, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, and Taiwan. The observers were invited by AAEA and functioned independently and not as representatives of their respective governments.

Press Briefing - 22 January 2010

The AAEA Observer Mission (AAEAOM) was present in Sri Lanka from the 20th of January to the 29th. Forty-one Members of the AAEAOM were subdivided into 25 groups of observers to cover 25 administrative districts of Sri Lanka. All groups reported nominal conditions in their respective areas. The issuing of ballot papers, ballot boxes, and other election paraphernalia were observed to have proceeded with no significant incident. Polling station rehearsals were also observed and found to have been carried out properly.

 

 List of AAEA Observers and respective areas of assignment

 

DISTRICT

OBSERVERS

COUNTRY

AMPARA

DATO' HJ. ZAINAL ABDIN BIN HJ. MAT SAID

MALAYSIA

ANURADHAPURA

MS. DEKI PEMA

MR. UGYEN GONPHEL

BHUTAN

BADULLA

DR. AYODHEE PRASAD YAVAV

MR. BHUPENDRA PRASAD PAUDE

NEPAL

BATTICALOA

MR. ABDULLAH BIN JUSOH

MALAYSIA

COLOMBO

MR. DEBASISH GUPTA

MS. SRI NURYANTI

MR. MUHAMMED SOHUL HUSSAIN

MRS. MONOWARA KHATUN

INDIA

INDONESIA

BANGLADESH

GALLE

MR. SUNIL KUMAR KUJUR

INDIA

GAMPAHA

MR. SOM SORIDA

MR.SAM SAVUTH

MS. WONG, CHIEH

CAMBODIA

HAMBANTOTA

DR. PAN, WEI-TA

MS. CHEN, I-YA

TAIWAN

JAFFNA

MR. YESHI TSERING

INDIA

KALUTARA

GENERAL AYUB ASSIL

DR. DAOUD ALI NAJAFI

AFGHANISTAN

KANDY

MR. YU, MING-HSIEN

MR. LAI, TZUNG-YU (JAMES)

TAIWAN

KEGALLE

MR. KU BYOUNGMO

MR. SHIN IL SOP

MR. JEONG YOUNGJU

REPUBLIC OF KOREA

KILINOCHCHI

MR. WANG, PAO-CHIEN (LAWRENCE)

TAIWAN

KURUNEGALA

DR DAVID ANERE PHD

PAPUA NEW GUINEAN

MANNAR

MR. SONO KHAN BALOCH

MR. SYED SHER AFGAN

PAKISTAN

MATALE

MR. PHUNTSHO TOBGAY

BHUTAN

MATARA

SHRI HEMANTA NARZARY

INDIA

MONERAGALA

MR. KHAN KEOMONO

CAMBODIA

MULLAITIVU

MR. MIHIR SARWAR MORSHED

BANGLADESH

NUWARA ELIYA

MS. ANTONINA MIKHAILOVNA MARKOVA

MS. ALIYA ZHAKENOVNA SABYRKHANOVA

MR. DARKHAN SEITENOV

KAZAKHSTAN

POLONNARUWA

MR. KHONDKER MIZANUR RAHMAN

BANGLADESH

PUTTALAM

MR. MUHAMMAD IMTIAZ ALAM

MR. MEHBOOB ANWAR

PAKISTAN

RATNAPURA

MR.MOHAMMAD EMRAN

BANGLADESH

TRINCOMALEE

MR. OPENAKALI TIANE

PAPUA NEW GUINEAN

VAVUNIYA

MR. ANIL KUMAR DUTTA

NEPAL

The election administrators performed their tasks commendably and efficiently, justifying the high esteem in which the Election Commission is held by the general public, journalists, and politicians. Every participant in the process fulfilled his/her respective duty with competence and becoming alacrity. Mr. Dissanayake, the Commissioner of Elections in particular, by performing all his duties with utmost professionalism and integrity, has once again given good reason for the confidence reposed in him by all the stakeholders. As a result, polling station operations were conducted smoothly and without untoward incident.

With almost 70% of the people turning out to cast their votes, the President-elect now enjoys a mandate that can be a powerful instrument for the further growth of Sri Lanka, and the continued economic development of this beautiful island.

 

1. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The AAEAOM wishes to express its sincerest gratitude to the following:

l     The Commissioner of Elections, Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake for his unstinting cooperation with the Observer Mission and the assistance he wholeheartedly extended to it.

l     The Government of Sri Lanka, for the cooperation extended to the Mission;

l     The Department of Elections, for its generous cooperation and complete openness;

l     The political parties, domestic observer groups and the media for their willingness to meet with us and share their thoughts, opinions, and ideas.

l     The entire Coordinating Staff, headed by Mr. Siri Medawewa, who were virtual gold-mines of information at every step of the electoral process, and whose untiring assistance was invaluable to the Mission;

l     The Police who provided exemplary protection and support to all Mission Members; and

l     Last but not least, to the people of Sri Lanka for their warm hospitality and unfailing graciousness as they welcomed us as observers into their communities as they participated in the electoral process.

 

Meeting with Inspector General of Police, Sri Lanka -21 January 2010

 

2. OBJECTIVES

The objective of the Mission was to witness the pre poll arrangement, poling and counting process of the election throughout the country and to report its observations fairly and accurately. Despite the limitations of manpower and resources of the Mission made comprehensive monitoring of the elections impossible and therefore this Mission Report serves to recount events occurring only in those places that were observed by it, during the period from the 24th up to the end of the counting process on the 27th of January 2010, related to the Presidential Election of Sri Lanka. No post-election observation was conducted.

Deployment Meeting with AAEA observers - 22 January 2010

 

3. MISSION BACKGROUND AND CODE OF

CONDUCT

The Mission under the leadership of its Chairman Mr. Rai, Hau Min – also the Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Taiwan – sent forty-one Observers from Member Commissions to observe the Presidential Election 2010 of Sri Lanka. Due to the urgent and pressing commitments, Chairman Rai was unable to Head the Mission. In his stead, he recommended Dr. Wei-Ta Pan, who now serves for the CEC as a Commissioner, to take up the job to head the Mission on his behalf. Accompanying Dr. Pan were election authorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Nepal, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, and Taiwan. Significantly, although the observers were invited by Commissioner Dissanayake, they functioned independently and not as representatives of their respective governments.

The Observer Mission was governed by the following Code of Conduct:

§        Shall strictly impartial in the conduct of their duties, and at no time express any bias or preference in relation to the parties, candidates, or with reference to any contentious issues in the election process;

§        Undertake their duties in an unobtrusive manner, and will not interfere with the election process, polling day procedures, or the vote count;

§        Shall not display or wear any partisan symbols, colours or banners; or any such thing identify with a political party or a candidate.

§        Must carry, at all times, the prescribed identification issued by the Department of Elections, and identify themselves to any  authority upon request;

§        Note and, if possible, document any irregularities they may find, and submit such notes and documentation to the head of the observing team. Under no circumstances observers are authorized to give instructions or countermand decisions of the election officials;

§        Avoid making hasty conclusions, and must base all judgments on well documented, factual, and verifiable evidence.

§        Information gathered during the observing activity should not be made available to any unauthorised agency;

§        Shall refrain from making any personal or premature comments about their observations to the media or any other interested person, and will limit any remarks to general information about the nature of their activity as Observers;

§        Must comply with all election rules and regulations, particularly with regard to the various prohibitions in force during an election period.

§        Shall not accept gifts from parties or persons taking part in the election.

 

4. TERMS OF REFERENCE

The mission of the International Observers will:

1.        Observe the conduct of Presidential Election scheduled to be held on 26th of January, 2010 in accordance with the legal provisions of the island relating to the election.

2.        Consider the factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral process.

3.        Determine whether the conditions exist for the free expression of the will of the electors and also the results of the Presidential Election reflects the wish of the public.

4.        Observe the fields stated below and present the observations and recommendations with proposed actions on institutions, procedural and also the other relevant matters to the authorities concerned in order to have future elections in a free and fair manner.

5.        Act independently and impartially, and

6.        Submit its report to the Commissioner of Elections.

 

5. POLITICAL BACKGROUND

In November 2009, the incumbent President decided to seek a mandate from the people for a second term after completion of four years of his first term which ends in November 2011 by sending a proclamation to the Commissioner of Elections stating therein his intention. Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake, the Commissioner of Elections, announced on 27 November, 2009 that the presidential election will be held on 26 January 2010. 

This was in accordance with Article 31(3a) of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka which states: “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the preceding provisions of this Chapter, the President may, at any time after the expiration of four years from the commencement of his first term of office, by Proclamation, declare his intention of appealing to the people for a mandate to hold office, by election, for a further term.”

The process of nomination of candidates was completed on 17 December 2009. Even with twenty-two candidates officially contesting the election (18 from registered political parties and 4 independent candidates), the consensus in Sri Lanka has been that there were really only two choices for the executive presidency, the incumbent President backed by United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and his former army chief, General Sarath Fonseka of the New Democratic Front (NDF).

 

6. LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The Executive President

The Sri Lankan Constitution, promulgated on the 7th of September 1978, vests legislative power in a unicameral Parliament, and grants sweeping executive powers to the President. Article 30(1) of The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, in a separate chapter entitled inter alia relatig to the “The Executive — The President of the Republic,” provides that “There shall be a President of the Republic of Sri Lanka, who is the Head of the State, the Head of the Executive and of the Government, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.” The President shall be elected by the people and shall hold office for a term of six years, with only one re-election allowed. The President is also given the power, under Article 70 to dissolve Parliament and call for the election of new Members of parliament, except during the first year of its term.

The Presidential Election Act No. 15 of 1981.

The Presidential Election Act No. 15 of 1981 was enacted on the 12th of March 1981. Since then, it has undergone several amendments. The Act sets out in great detail how specific aspects of the elections are to be administered, including the nomination of candidates. The Act likewise spells out how polling centres are to be organized, the counting procedures are to be followed, and what acts constitute election offences.

The 17th Amendment and the Commissioner of Elections

The Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution provided for the establishment of an Election Commission with greater powers than its predecessor, the Department of Elections, to be charged with ensuring the free and fair conduct of elections and referenda. However, since no Commission has yet been constituted, the powers provided for it under the Amendment have effectively been vested in the sitting Commissioner of Elections.

The Electoral System

For Presidential Election, the entire country is considered as one electorate, divided into 22 Electoral Districts. Each District, under the administration of a Returning Officer and an Assistant Commissioner of Elections, is further subdivided into polling divisions. Each polling division is comprised of several polling stations at which voters will cast their votes on Election Day. A Polling Station is controlled by a Senior Presiding Officer, assisted by a Junior Polling Officer and several Election Staff. For the 2010 Presidential Election, 10,875 polling stations went into operation from 7 am to 4 pm on the 26th of January. After voting, the ballot boxes, containing the ballot papers cast during the poll, were transported to Counting Centres nationwide. A Senior Counting Officer oversaw the operations of each Counting Centre.

On Poll Day, voters cast their votes for their favoured candidate and are asked to indicate their second and third preferences. After the close of polls, the sealed ballot boxes are then transported to designated counting centres. At these centres, ballot counting proceeds in two stages: first, the number of ballots in the ballot box is verified against the figures given in the report of voters who actually voted. If there is a discrepancy this process will be repeated until either the results in the report of voters who actually voted or the number of ballots in the ballot box is repeated. Any discrepancy which persists is then recorded. This process is continued until all the ballot boxes have been disposed of.

The second stage of counting involves the ballots being sorted according to the votes cast in favour of each candidate. Any doubtful ballot papers are passed on to the counting officer for immediate determination on their validity. The valid ballots are segregated in boxes on the counting table, into bundles of fifty ballots, then into bundles of 500, until all ballots have been sorted and bundled and placed in the proper boxes on the counting table. At the end of this stage, the counting officer will hand over the statement on the number of votes to the Returning Officer.

With the receipt of such Statements the Returning Officer finalizes the statement of votes for the entire district. The candidate with 50% + 1 of votes cast wins. If no candidate gets this majority, counting proceeds to a third stage where the winner is decided through a count of the preferences.

Under this system, the candidates who did not get the highest or the second highest number of votes are eliminated from the race. The votes for these eliminated candidates are then re-examined for their preferences. If the 2nd preference is for either the highest or second highest ranking candidate, then the preference is counted in that candidate’s favour. If the 2nd preference is for a candidate other than the highest and 2nd highest ranking candidate, then the 3rd preference is applied. After all preferences have been counted, the candidate who garners more than 50% of the votes cast wins.

 

7. PRE-ELECTION

Voter Registration

Every citizen, who is 18 years of age or older and a resident of the district in which he proposes to vote, may vote. The voters’ register is updated annually and the process for such revision starts in the month of May. For this election, the number of registered voters totalled 14,088,500. Voters Register is updated annually through a system of house to house enumeration. The Registering Officer of an Electoral District appoints the enumerators who compile lists of voters in every village, based on the report of the chief occupant of each household. The village ‘head,’ called the Grama Niladhari, oversees the enumeration.

After the civil war, the re-settlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern part of the country started in August 2009, which process is still in progress. The displaced voters were therefore given the opportunity to apply under Section 119B of the Presidential Elections Act for their registration as voters to facilitate them to cast their votes at alternative polling stations in the areas where they are now temporarily living in. Commissioner of Elections extended the period for applying to vote at alternative polling stations from 7 days up to 27 days. There were 45,732 applicants who qualified such registration. The Department of Elections established 89 alternative polling stations for IDPs electors.

It was also observed that current Voters’ Register did not appear to be as accurate as it ought to be in so far as registration of internally displaced persons was concerned. Reportedly a number of voters registered at one place were deleted after their displacement and were not re-registered at the place where they got settled after such displacement.  In one instance, it was noted that some voters were refused to exercise franchise on the pretext that their names did not appear in the electoral register of that poling division, the same having been deleted after these voters reported to have been displaced.

Election Environment

Media

According to the stipulation of section 104B of the Constitution, Commissioner of Elections has issued guidelines for media organizations to enforce fairness in the use of media and has also appointed a Competent Authority to supervise the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation. However, state media ignored his instructions and the Competent Authority was not effectively functional. Therefore Commissioner of Elections withdrew the appointment of the Competent Authority on 19 January with effect from 18 January. In this election, state media are widely perceived as not being equally accessible to all candidates.

Election Order

The fierce contest between the two camps increased the tension among their supporters, leading to the occurrence of election violence, in which four killings were reported. However, the police was mobilized in order to properly handle the situation and ensure the social order. The leaders of the two campaigning camps and religious leaders, on the day before the election, called on the voters to remain calm, in order to ensure the peaceful proceeding of the election. On the voting day, only a small a number of incidents had taken place, and the overall election process went peacefully and in an orderly manner. The voter turn-out at 74.5% show that any such incidents have not intimidated and kept the voters away. 

Cut-outs & Posters

In accordance with the election regulations, all cut-outs and posters of the candidates were to be removed after the campaign period was over. Even though the police worked hard to remove as much cut-outs and posters as possible, the posters and cut-outs were still spotted along the streets.

 

8. ELECTION DAY

Voting and counting on Election Day were generally peaceful and orderly. Election administrators performed their tasks commendably and efficiently, justifying the high esteem in which the Election Commission is held by the general public, journalists, and politicians. The Commissioner of Elections in particular, by performing all his duties with utmost professionalism and unquestionable integrity, has once again given good reason for the confidence reposed in him by all the stakeholders.

 

Voting

The procedures laid down by law were followed faithfully by the election administrators, which ensured orderly election proceedings in all polling stations. The active participation of political parties in maintaining the orderliness of elections – through their polling agents – ensured the complete transparency of voting operations in all places visited by AAEA Observers. None of the observers reported partisan activity in the vicinity of the polling stations.

AMPARA

ANURADHAPURA

BADULLA

BATTICALOA

COLOMBO

GALLE

GAMPAHA

HAMBANTOTA

JAFFNA

KALUTARA

KANDY

KEGALLE

KILINOCHCHI

KURUNEGALA

MANNAR

MATALE

MATARA

MONERAGALA

MULLAITIVU

NUWARA ELIYA

POLONNARUWA

PUTTALAM

RATNAPURA

TRINCOMALEE

VAVUNIYA

 

 

 

 

Counting

Polling stations were closed promptly at 4:00 pm, with proper care and attention being given to securing the ballot boxes. In all cases witnessed by AAEA Observers, polling agents and election administrators cooperated with each other fully to ensure the proper sealing of the ballot boxes. Transport of the boxes to counting centres was reasonably secure, and no complaints of harassment or ballot box snatching were received.

In many places, counting started late as all the ballot boxes assigned to those centres had not yet arrived. The Observers are unanimous in reporting that the counting process was extremely time consuming. However, counting was performed in an orderly fashion despite many delays.

 

9.CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

 Conclusions

The Association of Asian Elections Authorities Observer Mission (AAEAOM) was present in Sri Lanka from 20th - 29th January 2010.  Forty-one Members of the Mission were subdivided into 22 groups of observers to cover the electoral districts of Sri Lanka. All groups reported normal conditions in their respective areas. The distribution of ballot boxes, ballot papers, and other election materials were observed to have proceeded with no adverse incident.  Polling station rehearsals were also observed and found to have been duly carried out.

Submission of Observers' Report

Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake, Commissioner of Elections, Sri Lanka (R)

Dr. Pan Wei-Ta, Electoral Commissioner of Taiwan (L)

 The election administrators performed their tasks efficiently, justifying the high esteem in which the Department of Elections is held by the voters, media, and political parties.  Every participant in the process fulfilled his respective duty with due diligence. Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake, the Commissioner of Elections, in particular, performed all his duties and functions with  professionalism and integrity, As a result, the polling station operations were conducted smoothly and without any untoward incident.

With about 75% of the people turning out to cast their votes, the high voters turn out abundantly indicates the strong roots of the democratic process in the country, and as such, speaks highly of the Sri Lankan people. The President-elect now has secured mandate to lead the country in its growth and economic development.

The Mission noted that the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka provides for the appointment of an independent Election Commission for the country, which has not yet been implemented and the current elections were conducted by the Commissioner of Elections exercising the powers of the Election Commission.

It was also observed that current Voters’ Register did not appear to be as accurate as it ought to be in so far as registration of internally displaced persons was concerned. Reportedly a number of voters registered at one place were deleted after their displacement and were not re-registered at the place where they got settled after such displacement.  In one instance, it was noted that some voters were refused to exercise franchise on the pretext that their names did not appear in the electoral register of that poling division, the same having been deleted after these voters reported to have been displaced.

It has been observed that the election law relating to Presidential Elections in Sri Lanka has many lacunae and therefore requires to be reviewed to make good the deficiencies and improve it in the following areas:

0.        There is no procedure for marking the ballot papers

1.        Law requires a voter to give his three preferences while marking the ballot paper but the candidates were observed to be telling the voters to mark their ballot papers by putting “X” in the relevant box.

2.        The present election lead pencil was allowed to be used for marking the ballot paper which is erasable and therefore is prone to be misused.

3.       The high number of rejected votes indicates that the voters were confused about marking the ballot paper.

4.    The law allows revision of polling station location by the Commissioner of Elections at any time without notifying the candidates which adversely affected the credibility and the transparency of the election process.

Though the Observers did not mention about any violence or acts of intimidation having taken place but there were reports in the media regarding occasional instances of such offences directed both at voters and political players in this election. However, police officers were able to provide over-all security so that the election could be conducted smoothly.

Press Briefing - 28 January 2010

Recommendations

l         The use and accessibility of the Government controlled media for candidates, political parties, and contesting independent groups should be more equal.

l         Appointment of independent Election Commission as provided for in the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution may be made.

l         There is no limit of spending money on election campaign of a contesting candidate for the office of the President nor candidates are required to submit statements showing their sources of income as well as expenditure. So this aspect need be addressed adequately by amending the laws.

l         The Voters Register pertaining to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) may be updated so as to make it available for the upcoming Parliamentary Election which is expected to be held in near future.

l         The Department of Elections may consider to speed up the work of registration of IDPs and also arrange their education relating to franchise.

l         Currently, the law provides that the posters and cut outs of the candidates should be removed before the Election Day by the Police.  This provision needs to be reviewed so as to penalise the defaulters in case of non compliance.

l         The Election Laws relating to Presidential Election may be suitably amended so as to remove the deficiencies pointed out in hereinabove.

l         There could be a clear display of the polling station number at the entrance or gate of every polling station;

l         It should be made clear to voters that the list of permitted documents of identification, which are otherwise valid but became invalid due to expiry of date, shall not be considered for identification at the poll.

l         The importance of secrecy of ballot should be highlighted during the briefing of all election and polling officials.

l         The logistical arrangements for the counting centres should be improved.

   Commissioner of Elections  & AAEA observers  - 28 January 2010

 

 

Back