Sri Lanka faces costliest election, longest ballot paper

Former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse's younger brother Gotabhaya waves to supporters in Colombo on Oct 7, 2019, after filing his nomination papers to contest in the upcoming presidential election. PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (AFP) - A record number of candidates for Sri Lanka's presidential poll next month has led to the longest-ever ballot paper, and the most expensive vote in the country's history, the Election Commission said on Tuesday (Oct 8).

Thirty-five candidates are running in the Nov 16 poll - the highest number in any single ballot, Elections Commission chief Mahinda Deshapriya told reporters in Colombo.

"The ballot paper will be the longest-ever we have had," he said. "It will be 65cm long."

"With the increase in the size of the ballot paper, we will have to import plastic ballot boxes because the wooden boxes we have with us will not be big enough."

The cost of the election was originally estimated at some US$22 million (S$30 million), but that is now expected to rise to US$28 million, officials said.

Sri Lanka does not have electronic voting machines and ballots are counted manually, with the results expected the day after the polls.

The authorities allow each candidate to have two polling agents at each of the 11,000 voting booths across the nation.

The minimum voting age is 18, and 16 million people are eligible to vote.

There are two Buddhist monks and just one woman among the 35 people running for president of the nation of 21 million people.

Former president Mahinda Rajapakse's younger brother Gotabhaya, 70, is the front runner while his main challenger is 52-year-old Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa.

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