Colombo, Nov 12 (IANS): The Election Commission (EC) of Sri Lanka on Tuesday announced that a team consisting of 17 foreign poll observers was expected to arrive in the island nation later in the day and also on Wednesday ahead of Saturday’s presidential election.
EC Director-General Saman Sri Ratnayake said the team comprised observers from India, Indonesia, South Korea, South Africa, Maldives and Bhutans, Philippines, and Myanmar, reports News First.
Ratnayake added that a total of 150 election observers will be deployed to observe Saturday’s election, which is the eighth presidential poll held in the island nation.
All presidential election campaigns are slated to conclude on Wednesday midnight.
Earlier this month, the EC had announced that it would set up 45,000 polling booths across the country.
EC officials said that during previous elections, only 35,000 polling booths had been set up island-wide, but this year, 10,000 additional booths would be added due to the two-feet long ballot paper, reports Xinhua news agency.
For the first time in Sri Lankan history, the ballot paper will be so long, due to a record breaking 35 candidates running for presidency, the Commission said.
EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya has that the Commission might announce the winner on Sunday but if the top two candidates fail to secure 50 per cent votes for an absolute majority, then the results would be delayed till later that day.
He added that if the Commission was led to count preferential votes to decide the winner, the results could be announced by Sunday night, the Daily Mirror reported.
In response to an invitation by the EC, the European Union has also deployed a mission to observe the election.
Of the 35 hopefuls, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s (SLPP) candidate 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.
Sajith 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.