Elections: All systems go | Daily News


 

Elections: All systems go

With the decks now being cleared all round for the resumption of normal activities in the country, it was only inevitable that the Elections Commission (EC) too would follow suit in setting a date for the holding of the much delayed General Election.

As we mentioned in these columns yesterday, a date has been fixed for the reopening of schools and the go-ahead has also been given for the resumption of church services and other religious functions. All National Parks too are to reopen on June 15. This is in addition to the reopening of all offices, factories and workplaces and the resumption of sports and all other activities related to day to day life. All this follows the thumbs up given by the Health authorities.

No doubt, the EC too had received the green light from the health authorities that the polls could go ahead without risk or danger, subject to the health guidelines now in force.

Admittedly there was much deliberation by the EC before deciding on a date (August 05) after putting off the poll on two  occasions.  Due to this the Commission came in for some flak from certain politicians for ostensibly delaying the franchise when the Coronavirus threat was under control. But in fairness to Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya it must be said that he could not be faulted for playing safe and exercising caution, given the serious form that Coronavirus had taken hold, what with entire localities under lockdown earlier with the detection of clusters and also the warnings issued by the health authorities from time to time of the very real possibility of a second wave. One cannot also overlook the fact that a large number of persons were still in quarantine and a certain period would be needed until their recovery lest they be deprived of their franchise.

Besides, elections are not just about voting. There are a host of other issues to consider when organizing an election. There will be house to house canvassing by candidates accompanied by supporters, pocket meetings and election rallies all of which mean massive congregations, the one aspect which the health authorities have been warning against all the time.

The Elections Commission will necessarily have to evaluate and draw up plans and come to arrangements as to how these essential ingredients in an election will have to be organized, which obviously would take time. There are also logistical issues such as accommodation of election staff, arrangements at counting centers where large gatherings are inevitable, that have to be considered under the prevailing health guidelines and the voting process itself, with 16 million voters slated to cast their ballots.

The Commission, no doubt, would have to weigh in all these factors including the manpower needed for conducting such a massive exercise as holding a national election in conformity with the restrictions imposed. Hence ,the Commission’s tendency to err on the side of caution while taking into account the risk factors is only to be expected, for, should something untoward happens, Deshapriya and Co would not want the accusing finger pointed in their direction.

As to the conducting of the election itself, there can be little doubt that the Commission would acquit itself admirably as it did during the two previous elections held under the EC. Both the 2018 LG polls and last year’s Presidential Election had no complaints from any quarter where all accepted that the Commission held the scales evenly on both occasions. There is little doubt it won’t be any different this time around as well.

In fact Commission Chairman Deshapriya’s task will be that much easier this time around with the President imposing a blanket prohibition on all state officials from involving themselves in political activities on behalf of any party during the election. This will now spare him (Deshapriya) the onerous task of issuing guidelines to State officials to refrain from engaging in politics or effecting transfers of employees, as has been his lot in the past.

This election will definitely be different to all other elections held in the past. In fact it is going to be a new experience to the voters as well as election officials not to mention politicians all of whom will be restrained by the prevailing health emergency as a matter of precaution. True, there have been elections held under difficult conditions, notably the 1989 General Election, that was marred by the JVP inspired violence leading to a low voter turnout.

Still, the people braved the guns and bullets and boldly exercised their franchise. This time too there is little doubt that the voters will turn up in their numbers, the health risk notwithstanding, to demonstrate the strong democratic traditions in this country where the franchise is held sacrosanct. For now though it will be all systems go leading to polling day.


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