Over 14.8 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the polls, which will begin at 7 am local time and end by 4 pm. More than 68,000 police personnel and 25 army battalions have been deployed for the conduct of peaceful elections, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said while claiming that up to 800 opposition-aligned army deserters may attempt to spark violence during the elections.
“Our intelligence says between 600 and 800 army deserters headed by a former major general are roaming around to create poll-related problems,” he told a press conference here, adding these “fugitives” had also collected unauthorised arms.
Tuesday’s election pitting 64-year-old Rajapakse against former army chief Fonseka, 59, is the first peacetime presidential vote since Tamil Tigers took up arms in 1972.
“Having restored peace to the country after 30 years of (LTTE) terrorism, the Government of Sri Lanka is wholly committed to a free and democratic election in every part of the country,” a statement released by the Sri Lankan Presidential Secretariat said.
President Rajapakse has called the elections two years ahead of schedule in an apparent bid to cash in on the victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels, for which both he and Fonseka have claimed credit.
Commissioner of Elections Dayananda Disshnayake, meanwhile, has said voters can cast their ballots even without official poll cards by proving their identity. He said the counting of votes will begin on Tuesday night and the final result may be issued by Wednesday morning.