Sri Lanka counts votes from parliamentary elections

President is seeking two-thirds majority in the 225-member parliament to change the constitution.

Sri Lanka vote counting
A health official takes the temperature of election officials who arrive with ballot boxes from polling station to a counting centre [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

The counting of votes is under way in Sri Lanka after Wednesday’s parliamentary election that saw a lower turnout amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said counting started at 9am local time (03:30 GMT) and the first results were expected by late afternoon with the final tally coming in at about midnight.

Polling ended without major incidents of violence and with a turnout of 71 percent, Deshapriya said on Wednesday. More than 16.2 million people were registered to vote.

The voting rate was lower than the previous parliamentary elections in 2015, where a 77 percent turnout was recorded.

However, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said the number of voters was a show of confidence in the government over its efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Sri Lanka's President Rajapaksa waves at his supporters as he leaves a polling station after casting his vote during the country's parliamentary election in Colombo
Gotabaya Rajapaksa is seeking two-thirds majority for his party in the 225-member parliament to enable constitutional reforms [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

The president’s elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, is running as the prime ministerial candidate from the governing Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) and is tipped to win.

A strong mandate in Parliament would bolster the powers of the 71-year-old president, who was elected in November in a landslide victory.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is seeking a two-thirds majority for his party in the 225-member parliament to enable constitutional reforms.

Gaining more than 150 seats in total would allow Rajapaksa to enact constitutional changes, and potentially revoke the country’s 19th constitutional amendment, a long-standing campaign promise from last year.

The amendment, enacted in 2015 following 10 years of rule by Gotabaya’s elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, curtailed the powers of the president, distributing them more evenly with the prime minister and other democratic institutions.

The main opposition United National Party, led by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, has been plagued by divisions.

Most of its previously popular candidates contested under the banner of a separate party, known as the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (United People’s Front) and led by former presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa.

Meanwhile, the president announced the new parliament will meet on August 20.

Source: News Agencies