Sri Lanka to hold coronavirus-delayed election on August 5

Election Commission sets new date for parliamentary polls after postponing them twice over the pandemic.

    President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is hoping the election would give his party a two-thirds majority in Parliament [File: Eranga Jayawardena/AP]
    President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is hoping the election would give his party a two-thirds majority in Parliament [File: Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

    Sri Lanka will hold the parliamentary elections on August 5, more than three months late because of the coronavirus, the election commission said after health authorities gave their approval.

    A mock election will be held this weekend to test new health measures that will be implemented at polling booths and counting centres, commission chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said on Wednesday.

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    Election commission member Ratnajeevan Hoole said the date would give the sufficient time for preparations under health guidelines.

    The vote was delayed and then postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus, which has killed 11 people in Sri Lanka and infected almost 2,000, according to official data.

    Sri Lanka has been steadily lifting lockdown restrictions, although a night-time curfew remains. Schools will reopen later this month, and foreign tourists will be allowed from August 1.

    President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had been hoping the elections would give his party a two-thirds majority in Parliament, allowing it to change the constitution and secure him wider powers.

    The first two election dates - April 25 and June 20 - were postponed as the Election Commission sought assurances from health authorities that would be safe to hold the vote.

    Sri Lanka is facing constitutional uncertainties because it is past a three-month period allowed by law to operate without a sitting parliament.

    Last week, the Supreme Court rejected petitions by the opposition parties and civil activists seeking an annulment of Rajapaksa's order dissolving the parliament in March.

    Rajapaksa was elected last November and used his constitutional powers to dissolve Parliament six months ahead of schedule hoping to secure his party a majority of legislators.

    Although he would be allowed to reconvene the dissolved Parliament in an emergency, he refused to do so when the coronavirus made elections uncertain.

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    SOURCE: News agencies