A team of highly experienced observers from the European Union will be monitoring Sri Lanka's November 16 presidential election, which is expected to be a tight contest between former defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the ruling party leader Sajith Premadasa.
"It is a great privilege to have been given this opportunity to lead this sixth EU EOM to Sri Lanka," said Chief Observer Marisa Matias, a Member of the European Parliament from Portugal.
"The presidential election marks an important stage in Sri Lanka's democratic process and I very much hope our presence will contribute to its transparency," Matias said.
This is the sixth time that EU observers will be monitoring Lankan polls. The EU deployed its missions during the elections in 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2015.
As many as 35 candidates are in the fray for the presidential polls in which over 15 million people are eligible to vote to elect the next president for a five-year term. The large number of candidates in the fray have necessitated the longest ballot paper ever in the island's electoral history.
The EU observer mission will carry out a comprehensive election assessment, focusing on the legal framework, electoral administration, voter registration, campaigning, conduct of the media, including social media, voting, counting and tallying, and the transmission of results.
The mission will remain in the country well beyond election day to observe any appeals or complaints that have been or may be raised.
The local election commission said that over 1,100 complaints of electoral law violations and 9 complaints on election campaign related violence have so far been recorded since nominations closed on October 7.
A core team of nine EU experts have arrived in Colombo on October 11. For election day they and the long-term observers will be joined by 30 short-term observers as well as a delegation of up to seven Members of the European Parliament, bringing the total strength of the mission to nearly 80.
"We are in Sri Lanka with a team of 30 highly experienced long-term observers (LTOs), who were deployed to all nine provinces of Sri Lanka this morning. They will be meeting a wide range of election stakeholders in their areas and begin sending first-hand accounts from the field soon," Deputy Chief Observer Dimitra Ioannou said.
The mission will present its initial findings in a preliminary statement at a press conference in Colombo about two days after the elections. The final report would be presented nearly two months after the elections.
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