Presidential Election 2024: EC snubs Harin’s 5 Oct. polls date claim

Amidst political tensions, Election Commission (EC) Chairman R.M.A.L. Rathnayake bluntly dismissed claims by Tourism and Sports Minister Harin Fernando regarding a 5 October election date, asserting that the EC, not the Cabinet or Government, held the authority to set the election schedule.

“From 17 July onwards, EC members will convene independently to determine the election date,” Rathnayake declared.

“We will publicly announce the date without obligation to seek approval from any external body, including the Cabinet or President.”

Highlighting procedural specifics, Rathnayake clarified that elections could only commence after 17 September, followed by a mandatory four- to six-week preparation period.

Nomination dates, he added, would be set between 17-21 days post-announcement.

“This reaffirms the EC’s autonomy,” Rathnayake asserted, highlighting the commission’s resolve to uphold constitutional integrity amidst mounting political pressures.

Section 2 of the Presidential Elections Act No.15 of 1981 defines the Elections Commissioner’s duties in overseeing Presidential Elections as mandated by the Constitution.

According to this provision, the commissioner is required to issue an order published in the gazette, specifying two crucial dates.

First, the nomination date for candidates, set between 16 days and one month from the order’s publication date, along with the designated nomination location. Second, the polling date, scheduled between one month and two months from the nomination date.

Importantly, these dates cannot coincide with full moon Poya days or public holidays listed in the First Schedule to the Holidays Act No.29 of 1971. Furthermore, any subsequent declaration of a day as a public holiday after the order’s publication does not invalidate actions taken on that day for the purposes outlined in the act.

Furthermore, Chapter VII, Section 31(3) of the Constitution further specifies that the Presidential Election must occur not less than one month and not more than two months before the term of the incumbent president expires.