08/05/2020, 11.01
SRI LANKA
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Sri Lanka goes to the polls to elect a new parliament

by Melani Manel Perera

Amid anti-coronavirus measures, 16.3 million voters are called to choose 225 MPs. Card Ranjith urges voters to cast their ballot in a peaceful and conscientious manner. By and large, Christians support the political alliance that opposes the Rajapaksa brothers.

 

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lankans go to the polls today to elect a new parliament. Voting will take place from 7 am to 5 pm (local time), in 12,985 polling stations, under tight security, particularly in view of COVID-19. In this regard, the Election Commission stressed that “all polling booths are coronavirus-free.”

At least 16.3 million voters are called to elect 225 Members of Parliament, 196 in multi-seat constituencies and 29 by proportional representation from party lists. About 7,452 candidates are running for 20 parties and independent groups.

Archbishop Card Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo urged his compatriots to cast their ballot peacefully and conscientiously, choosing suitable candidates. Every vote counts for the future of Sri Lanka. “Over the next five years, Parliament will have to make very important decisions,” he said.

The country is polarised. About half the population supports President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda, who was president from 2005 to 2015 and is now prime minister. The other half opposes them.

Most Catholics do not want the Rajapaksas to get two thirds of seats, which would allow them to change the constitution. The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka noted that in 2015 a large majority of lawmakers across the political divide approved the 19th Amendment to the constitution, curtailing the powers of the executive branch.

Many Christians back National People’s Power (NPP) candidates. The NPP is an alliance that includes the Marxist-Leninist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, intellectuals and scholars. It could become the main opposition force in Parliament.

For Wijith Rohan Fernando, a senior lecturer in the Department of Western Classical Culture and Christian Culture at the University of Kelaniya, this is a decisive moment for the country.

“As Christians, we have no alternative,” he told AsiaNews. “We must vote for the NPP; otherwise, there will be no real change. In the past 72 years, our rulers have never served the people; they have only established a ‘kingdom of violence’.”

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