South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in on Jan. 10::

The Commonwealth Observer Group commends the people of Sri Lanka for the spirit in which they participated in this important election. The high voter turnout of 81.52 per cent reflects positively on the Sri Lankan people’s strong commitment to the democratic process.

The Group further commends the key political actors for accepting the results of the election and for reinforcing in their public statements the need to respect the rule of law in the days to come.

The Commonwealth Observer Group has been present in Sri Lanka since 2 January 2015. The Group’s mandate was to observe and consider all aspects of the electoral process and assess compliance with the standards for democratic elections to which Sri Lanka has committed itself. Where appropriate, the Group will make recommendations for the future strengthening of the electoral process.

The Group was tasked with considering, among other things, whether conditions existed for credible elections, including a fair pre-election environment; the transparency of the entire process; whether voters were free to express their will; and whether the counting and results process was transparent.

Over the next four days and before our departure, the Group will complete its Final Report for submission to the Commonwealth Secretary-General. Following this, he will send it to the Office of the Commissioner of Elections, the Government of Sri Lanka, political parties, relevant stakeholders, and eventually to all Commonwealth governments. The Final Report will, in due course, be made available to the public.

Upon arrival in Sri Lanka, the Group held meetings with the Commissioner of Elections, domestic observers, representatives of political parties, civil society and media monitors, the police, legal and constitutional experts, Commonwealth High Commissioners, Ambassadors resident in Sri Lanka, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and international observers. The Group also attended two rallies at the end of the election campaign.

Observer teams were deployed in Colombo, the Northern, North Western, East, and Southern Provinces where they also met local officials and domestic observers.

During these meetings, concerns were raised about a number of factors during the campaign, notably:

Other major concerns raised were:

Prior to the elections, the Observer Group sought assurances from key actors regarding some of the critical concerns raised:

Commonwealth Observers found that:

On election day, the Group observed a peaceful and well-managed process with a high voter turnout. They found that:

The Group commends domestic observer groups and civil society for the role they played in monitoring and reporting during the election period. Their robust and fearless work ensured that democratic processes were safeguarded.

The efforts, integrity and determination of the Commissioner of Elections was deeply impressive throughout the election period. All major stakeholders stated that they had faith in his ability to deliver, despite the limitations of the role. His staff are also to be commended for their professionalism and dedication under challenging circumstances. The Group recognises that the Office of the Commissioner of Elections lacks the necessary powers of enforcement with regard to election law violations and also lacks legislative independence from the Executive. Furthermore, in the absence of an independent Elections Commission, Sri Lanka’s electoral framework does not provide for the basic conditions for democratic elections.

The outcome of the 2015 election reflected the will of the people of Sri Lanka. It is however the view of the Group that the inadequate electoral and legal framework coupled with an unequal pre-electoral environment means that this electoral contest did not comply with all the key benchmarks for democratic elections.