- Officials vow ‘infection-free’ poll as question of China’s influence looms
BANGKOK — Sri Lankans will head to polling stations on Wednesday for a
general election shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic: They must wear face
masks to enter polling booths and observe social distancing while voting.
Voters will also be permitted to use their own pens to mark their ballots.
These are just a few of the unprecedented public health measures the
country’s election commission has announced as it aims to conduct an
“infection-free” poll on Aug. 5. Each booth will have hand sanitizers at the
entrance and exit of each booth, and the polls will be kept open an extra hour
in the evening, according to the commission.
The parliamentary elections follow a spell of uncertainty and legal wrangling
since early March, when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved the
225-member legislature five months ahead of schedule for an early-April poll.
The coronavirus pandemic forced two delays, upending the plans of the
hawkish Rajapaksa, who was riding high after his decisive victory in the
November 2019 election. The COVID-induced delays prompted fears that the
South Asian nation had entered a state of political limbo, as the delay was
imposed with no checks on executive authority