Sri Lanka’s local government elections scheduled for March 9 may be postponed due to a shortage of funds for printing ballot papers, according to the Government Printer. A senior officer from the Government Printer said that they have not received any allocation from the National Election Commission (NEC) for the printing process and that they cannot commence it without funds12.
The officer said that they need at least Rs. 200 million ($1 million) to print around 15 million ballot papers for 341 local authorities across the country1. He said that they have already prepared the designs and layouts for the ballot papers but they are waiting for the NEC to provide them with funds and finalise the candidates’ lists1.
The NEC has acknowledged that it has not allocated any funds for the Government Printer yet and that it is facing a financial crisis due to a delay in receiving its annual budget from the Treasury2. The NEC has said that it is trying to resolve the issue as soon as possible and that it hopes to hold the elections on time2.
The local government elections have been delayed several times since 2018 due to various reasons, including legal challenges, constitutional amendments and COVID-19 pandemic3. The elections are seen as a crucial test for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party who are facing public discontent over their handling of the economy, health crisis and human rights issues3.
The opposition parties, including the United National Party (UNP), Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), have accused the government of deliberately delaying the elections to avoid a defeat at the grassroots level3. They have also criticised the government’s decision to use electronic voting machines instead of paper ballots in some areas, alleging that it could lead to fraud and manipulation3.