Lankans vote in Par poll;Rajapaksa set to cement grip on power

Lankans vote in Par poll;Rajapaksa set to cement grip on power

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (second left) looks at a ballot box as his wife Shiranthi Rajapaksa casts her vote for parliamentary elections in his home town village Madamulana, 225 kilometers from south of Colombo, on Thursday. AP

The elections for 14th Parliament of Sri Lanka witnessed over 50 per cent voter turnout amid sporadic incidents of violence during the polling which began at 7 am local time and concluded at 4 pm, according to independent poll monitors.
Rajapaksa cast his vote from the southern Hambantota district while former Premier and opposition United National Front (UNF) chief Ranil Wickremasinghe voted from Colombo.
Fonseka, who is heading another opposition alliance DNA which is dominated by Marxist JVP, could not cast his ballot as his name did not figure in the voters' list of 2008, which was the basis for today's Parliamentary elections.

Rajapaksa's ruling UPFA is expected to register an easy win, with Fonseka facing court martial for alleged involvement in politics and illegal defence deals while in uniform and Wickremesinghe's UNF too not appearing to give a tough fight.

More than 14 million people were eligible to vote, with 7,620 candidates from 36 political parties and 310 independent groups running for Parliament.Counting of ballots will begin tonight and first results are expected by Friday morning.

Polling in the Wanni region, which was once held by the LTTE, was subdued, though some enthusiastic voters were seen queueing up at the polling booths.
P S M Charles, the government agent in Vavuniya, said more than five lakh people cast their votes in the district.

"I could see enthusiasm amongst voters and people were still queueing up in the concluding hours of the elections," he told reporters.The logistical facilities were in place to enable the Tamil people to move to the polling booths to cast their votes, he said, adding transport had been provided to the voters in Wanni region.

During the January 26 Presidential elections in which Rajapaksa had defeated Fonseka who was then the joint opposition candidate, voters had complained about lack of buses in Wanni which had caused problems to them in reaching the polling booths.
Executive Director of PAFFREL (People's Action for Free and Fair Elections) Rohana Hettiarachchi said 60 incidents of election-related violence were recorded just before the end of polling, though they were all of minor nature. He estimated the voter turnout to be 50-52 per cent.In the erstwhile LTTE bastion of Jaffna, video grabs showed people trickling in at various polling booths to cast their votes to elect nine candidates from the Northern district, following the end of the three-decade war with the death of rebel supremo V Prabhakaran in May last year.

Other former LTTE strongholds of Mullaittivu and Kilinochchi also saw people line up to cast their ballots.When contacted, a senior pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance leader said the polling in the North began on a slow pace.

As many as 58,700 police officers were deployed to maintain law and order during the voting at 11,155 polling centres. Candidates were allowed to have their political offices within a 500-metre zone from the polling booths.

Sri Lankan police had also deployed 2,584 mobile units on patrol round-the-clock to ensure peaceful elections.The 13th Parliament was elected for a six-year term in 2004, when the UPFA had come to power after securing 105 seats against Wickremesinghe-led UNP's 82. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had bagged 22 seats while the Buddhist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) had nine seats.

The last general election saw a voter turnout of over 60 per cent.The tenure of the present Parliament was scheduled to end on April 22, but it was dissolved by the President two months ahead of schedule.

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