SRI LANKA

When election cards turn into propaganda material

Sri Lanka headed to the polls today to choose between incumbent President Mahinda Rajapakse and former army chief Sarath Fonseka. Desperate to cling onto power after claiming the defeat of the Tamil Tigers last year, Rajapakse has been accused of verging on illegal tactics in his attempt to woo voters.

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A voting slip with the symbol of the incumbent president stapled to it.

Sri Lanka headed to the polls on Tuesday to choose between incumbent President Mahinda Rajapakse and former army chief Sarath Fonseka. Desperate to cling onto power after claiming the defeat of the Tamil Tigers last year, Rajapakse has been accused of verging on illegal tactics in his attempt to woo voters.

While the incumbent president claims to have been behind the final defeat of the rebels in April 2009, so does former army chief Fonseka. Both candidates are clambering for the title of first peacetime president since the start of the 26-year civil war.

One of the election irregularities noted was the delivery of voting cards which had been stapled with the symbol of a leaf - the same symbol that represents Rajapakse as candidate. It would seem that the campaign team employed postal workers to add the "indication" to the voting slip.

The video was posted on the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence website.

Transcript in English, translated by the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence:

"I am Prasanna Perara. I live in Kottawa, in the Pannipitiya area. When polling cards were being distributed for this time's presidential elections, our house also gets four polling cards. My brother, myself, my mother and father. These polling cards were distributed on the 24th. I saw it on the morning of the 25th. When I saw it, there was stapled to the polling card this sign of a beetle leaf with a cross marked alongside. When I asked my father who stapled this, he said that the card was received in the same manner. When I asked further, he said that the postmaster had distributed it and that he had not considered it to be that much of a problem, because of the way he will cast his vote. But it was a problem for me. After seeing this in the morning, I went to the Pannipitiya Post Office. But they informed that the postmaster was not in. After this, I told someone in the post office that I wanted to talk about this issue further. They were hesitant to do so, and said that they were extremely busy these days.

What I say is this. Who has the power to commit such a gross violation of election laws? This is a completely unlawful act. I don't have time to do anything about this now. There is only one day left for the election. I had no way to even tell the media about this today because there was no time, and the election will be held soon.

All I want to say is that the public should be more aware of these acts that go against elections."

“We have many allegations, but no hard evidence”

Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, who works for the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, has been observing Tuesday's election for irregularities. 

Violations of election laws here clearly exist and do manage to change the outcome of the poll. We've been sent several alerts on polling card anomalies that voters received through the post. As for today, we have many allegations, but no hard evidence on the field of irregular voting. We only know for sure that parts of the country, like the east coast, were marred by violence. Activists put pressure on voters to boycott the ballot, resulting in a low turnout in the region."