In preparation for monitoring the Presidential Election 2015, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence deployed 160 field coordinators based in polling divisions or electorates, while 25 field coordinators were deployed in the 25 administrative districts during the pre-election period. All field monitors report daily to the main CMEV secretariat in Colombo. CMEV officers stationed at the secretariat conduct further follow-up investigations on all reports, contacting the relevant parties including witnesses, health officials and police stations, and verifying the authenticity of claims. Additionally, over 4000 static observers will be stationed in polling stations on Election Day, similar to previous elections due to access approved by the Elections Commissioner to CMEV and PAFFREL. Furthermore, arrangements are made to deploy 50 mobile groups from Colombo to various locations across the country as necessary. The 200+field/district monitors will organise an equal number of mobile visits to polling stations. In total, CMEV expects to cover 65-70 per cent of polling stations across the country.
For the first time the Elections Commissioner has granted permission to local monitors to observe the count. CMEV has been delegated the responsibility for 30 per cent of the counting centres and would be deploying 66 observers accordingly. CMEV will deploy one observer for up to five rooms in which the count will be done.
Trends and Concerns
- At the end of campaigning, CMEV documented 420 incidents of violence (20th November 2014-5 January 2015), with 237 categorised as major incidents and 183 as minor incidents. The highest number of major incidents were reported from the Jaffna District with 22 incidents followed by Badulla District with 19, Kurunegala 18 and 17 in the Kandy District.
- CMEV has recorded 26 incidents involving firearms and 03 incidents of petrol bombings.
- Targeting of election officials has been a key trend in previous elections and this has continued in the 2015 Presidential election.
- CMEV monitors were attacked and threatened in two incidents.
- CMEV recorded 132 incidents of gross misuse of State resources for election purposes. This has been a recurring trend in the campaigns of the incumbent. Although not for the first time, the intensity and degree of misuse of resources during this Presidential election is unparalleled.
- Excessive use of State media by the incumbent and very limited airtime for opposition candidates. At the same time, given the availability of resources, similar profile in respect of private media.
- A vast number of incidents of violence and flagrant violation of election laws is attributed to the ruling party where local politicians including local government members are involved. With exceptions in a few key incidents, most perpetrators have operated with impunity.
- The culture of impunity for flagrant violation of election laws has encouraged continuation of such incidents.
- A large number of incidents of attacks have targeted opposition party offices and persons connected to said offices.
- Most suspects arrested for election violence related incidents have been released without following due process. Although CMEV notes a few court orders issued in recent days that provide for police action. CMEV Interim Campaign Report
- Several government employees were used (sometimes under duress) for electioneering.
- Ruling party politicians have been electioneering under the guise of providing relief to flood affected victims.
- CMEV documented police officers having attacked persons seeking voting rights. This has resulted in a situation where people are unable to complain to the Police. This coupled with the lack of due process with regards to suspects connected with election violence, has resulted in perceptions of Police unwillingness and inability to take action.
- An increase in attacks against human rights defenders and artistes in the last few days of the campaign. Women too have been targeted with a petrol bomb attack against a women’s activist in Kattankudy.
- Increase of violence and intimidation of voters in the North.
- The presence of armed forces impacting voter turnout, especially in the North. CMEV has received information of public officials used in campaigning in the lead up to the elections. Several incidents from Jaffna were reported on the last day of campaigns targeting both UPFA and opposition actors.
- CMEV raised concerns with the process involved with postal voting including the application process and the situation created as a result of incremental weather. CMEV has raised concerns in terms of reform in the application process.
- Two election rallies for the Common Opposition Candidate were attacked with shots fired in Kolonnawa.
- CMEV has raised concerns as to the situation faced by IDPs and their voting rights in the context of the recent floods and heavy rains in parts of Sri Lanka. This is an issue where CMEV wrote to the EC.
- CMEV noted several instances where false ballot papers were found in Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara, Monaragala, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Anuradhapura, Puttalam and Kandy. This too has been raised with the EC in terms of its impact to confuse voters and possibly impact the integrity of the franchise.
Significance of Presidential Polls 2015
- The first time an incumbent President is seeking a third term.
- An incumbent President has never been defeated at a Presidential election.
- The coalition against the incumbent is large and diverse
- Second Presidential election in the post war context
The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) was formed in 1997 by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Coalition Against Political Violence as an independent and non- partisan organisation to monitor the incidents of election related violence. Currently, CMEV is made up of CPA and INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre. CMEV monitors all national, provincial and local elections. Through years of experience, and utilising the latest in communication technology, CMEV has established an effective island-wide mechanism to speedily capture election related information and updates in Sri Lanka, and to verify and report these in a professional, unbiased and timely manner, supplying news to a number of media organisations, both local and international. CMEV works to protect and strengthen the integrity of the electoral process and the democratic rights of the peoples of Sri Lanka.