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Caritas educates Sri Lankans on new electoral system

Over 15.8 million people are eligible to elect 8,293 members in the largest election in the country's history

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo

Published: January 29, 2018 06:52 AM GMT

Updated: January 29, 2018 06:53 AM GMT

Caritas educates Sri Lankans on new electoral system

Over 300 participants including priests and lay leaders attend St. Joseph Vaz Center to learn about Sri Lanka's new election system. (Photo by Caritas Colombo)

Caritas Colombo is making the public aware of the newly introduced electoral system to be used in local government elections in Sri Lanka.

The polls on Feb. 10 will be the largest in the country's history. Over 15.8 million people are eligible to elect 8,293 members for 341 local authorities in polls that will be contested by 30 political parties and 100 independent groups. It will also be the first time that elections for all local authorities have been held on the same day.

"Once again the opportunity has come to make use of our power to select the right ones. First, we should be familiar with new electoral system," said Father Lawrence Ramanayake, director of Caritas Colombo, addressing priests and lay leaders on Jan. 23 at St. Joseph Vaz Center, Borella, Colombo.

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"We expect that lay leaders will carry this message to parish level and encourage people to use their votes in a wise manner."

Caritas Colombo is the social arm of Colombo Archdiocese.

"According to the new system, voters have to vote for a party, not a candidate," said Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the National Election Commission.

Candidates at ward level will not have their names on ballot papers. Votes should be cast for the party symbol. The votes received by each party will be calculated to get each party's share of votes in the local authority.

Candidates should maintain a good reputation to receive votes for their party, Deshapriya said.

In this election, at least 25 percent of candidates from each political party must be female.

"This election will open more space to call for our rights," said 38-year-old Ganga Dilrukshi, a lay leader from Negombo.

Even though women represent 52 percent of Sri Lanka's population, female representation is about 4 percent in provincial councils and about 5 percent in the cabinet. Sri Lanka is ranked 180th out of 190 countries for female representation in parliament.

"Most of the public are not very aware about the new system. We should make use of this election to appoint suitable people who can work for our ward," said Lesli Aththanayaka, a member of the parish council in Palliyawatta, Wattala.

Aththnayaka is preparing to conduct an awareness session on the new electoral system under the guidance of a parish priest.

"This electoral system is being tested with this election. It may take a little time to see whether this is more effective in changing the lives of the public. We appreciate the role of the Catholic Church in encouraging people to hold a fair and free election," said Saman S. Rathnayake of the National Election Commission.

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