Sri Lanka sees record turnout in final fight for presidency

Sri Lankans queue up to cast their votes as a police officer stands guard at a polling station during the presidential election in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP)
Updated 16 November 2019

Sri Lanka sees record turnout in final fight for presidency

  • The two main contenders for the presidency are Sajith Premadasa, from the New Democratic Front (NDF) and Gotabaya Rajapaksa from Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.(SLPP)
  • The first postal vote results will be announced before midnight on Saturday

COLOMBO: A record high of 80 percent of the total 16 million voters exercised their right at 12,845 polling booths across Sri Lanka in the country’s presidential election on Saturday.

Hambantota saw the highest turnout among the districts at 85 percent, while the Mannar district was the lowest with 62 percent.

The two main contenders for the presidency are Sajith Premadasa, from the New Democratic Front (NDF) and Gotabaya Rajapaksa from Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.(SLPP).

“We have polled more than 80 percent in our stronghold districts in the southern part of the island and we are heading for a comfortable victory,” Ali Sabry, chief legal officer to Rajapaksa, told Arab News.

“We have always lived in a democracy. We have guarded it and strengthened it over the decades, proud that so many Sri Lankans have fulfilled their civic responsibility by voting today,” Premadasa said.

The authorities had started counting the postal votes at 5.15 p.m. after polls closed. Postal votes were taken in advance by government officers.

The first postal vote results will be announced before midnight on Saturday, according to an Election Commission official.

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence reported that a total of 196 violations had been recorded so far. The majority of those were incidents of intimidation, attempts at influencing and illegal campaigning. One shooting was also reported.

Gunmen attacked a bus carrying internally displaced refugees near the road connecting Puttalam and Mannar. Rishath Bathiudeen, minister of industry and commerce, told Arab News the attack was to prevent the refugees from voting. “However, the timely intervention of the security authorities helped these people cast their votes without any (further) hassle,” he said.

Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya said that there had been no incidents of serious violence on Saturday, and commended the security services.

Deshapriya also said that he would be able to announce the final result of the polls by Sunday evening

The outgoing president, Mathripala Sirisena, said: “Although my achievements are not tangible in a materialistic sense, I was able to ensure freedom, democracy and governance without corruption.”

In his final address to the nation, the outgoing president added he was proud to have uphold democracy during his tenure. He said that the biggest challenge the new president would face would be appointing a cabinet free of corrupt members.


EU warns of ‘challenging’ timeframe for UK trade deal

Updated 13 December 2019

EU warns of ‘challenging’ timeframe for UK trade deal

  • EU is concerned about the rapid speed with which Johnson would like to strike a trade deal with Europe
  • Johnson has until July 1 to request for a trade talks extension

BRUSSELS: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday warned of the tight timing for securing a trade deal with Britain, hours after Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won a crushing election victory.
“The time frame ahead of us is very challenging,” von der Leyen said, following a discussion by EU leaders on the way forward after Brexit, now expected on January 31.
On the “first of February, we go to work,” she said.
EU Council President Charles Michel warned that the 27 member states would not accept a deal blindly, stressing that the bloc would insist that Britain respect European norms to win the deal.
“There is no question of concluding a deal at any price, said Michel, who coordinates EU summits, after the talks.
“Negotiations are over when the results are balanced and guarantee respect for the different concerns,” the former Belgian premier said.
“We have a way of doing things based on experience, transparency and maintaining unity” in the EU, he added.
EU is worried about the breakneck speed with which Johnson would like to strike a trade deal with Europe and any British effort to undermine the unity among the remaining 27 members.
In a text released after the talks, the 27 EU leaders called for “as close as possible a future relationship with the UK” while warning that it “will have to be based on a balance of rights and obligations and ensure a level playing field.”
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will direct trade negotiations, which the leaders will follow closely “and provide further guidance as necessary, fully consistent with the EU’s best interest,” conclusions added.
Johnson has until July 1 to ask for a trade talks extension.
If he refuses to extend the negotiation period, a no-deal Brexit will loom at the end of 2020, with Britain in danger of an abrupt cut in trade ties with Europe, endangering its economy.