Colombo, Oct 24 (IANS): In response to an invitation by the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, the European Union (EU) has deployed a mission to observe the island nation’s presidential election, scheduled for November 16.
The EU has had a long history of accompanying the electoral process in Sri Lanka and has deployed Election Observation Missions (EOM) on five previous occasions, the last in 2015, which reflects the bloc’s long-term commitment and partnership with Sri Lanka, Colombo Page reported on Thursday citing an official statement as saying.
Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, has appointed Marisa Matias, an MEP, as Chief Observer.
“The EU values its partnership with Sri Lanka. Deploying an EOM for the upcoming presidential election confirms our continuing engagement and commitment in support of democratic processes in the country,” Mogherini was quoted as saying in the statement.
“I am confident that the deployment of an EU EOM under the leadership of Chief Observer Marisa Matias will contribute to an inclusive, credible and transparent election. This election is important for Sri Lanka to continue making progress on its path of reform and national reconciliation.”
Matias said: “It is a great honour for me to lead this EOM… I am hopeful that our observation will provide an important contribution to this election and, through its follow-up, to efforts to further strengthen the electoral processes and institutions.”
The EOM core team of nine EU election analysts arrived in Colombo on October 5 and will stay in the country until the completion of the electoral process, the Colombo Page reported.
The core team was joined by another 30 long-term observers who were deployed across the country, and will for the election week be joined by additional 30 short-term observers.
A record 35 candidates have filed their nominations for the island nation’s eighth presidential election, with incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena’s term coming to an end in January 2020.
Of the 35 hopefuls, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s (SLPP) candidate and former Defence Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa; and the ruling United National Party’s (UNP) Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa, who is contesting as the National Democratic Front (NDF) contender, have emerged as the two favourites.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who served as the Defence Minister in his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration, oversaw the end of Sri Lanka’s brutal 25-year civil war in 2009.
Premadasa is the son of late President Ranasinghe Premadasa, who ruled the country with an iron fist before he was assassinated by a Tamil suicide bomber on May 1, 1993.