International

Rajapaksa faces tough test as voting ends with high turnout

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa casts his vote at a polling station in Tangalle, about 220 km south of Colombo on Thursday.  

Sri Lanka witnessed a largely peaceful presidential election on Thursday. There were a few sporadic explosions in the island’s north, but no injury or damage was reported. The voter turnout — yet to be officially declared — could possibly equal or even surpass the 2010 election’s 74.49 per cent.

Sri Lanka follows the ballot-paper system, and counting began on Thursday evening. A clear picture of the poll results is likely to emerge on Friday afternoon.

At least two grenade attacks were reported in the Tamil-majority region — Point Pedro in the Jaffna Peninsula and Vavuniya — but no one was injured. Despite the explosions, which police said they were investigating, voters came out enthusiastically, said Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya.

Colombo, too, saw polling booths teeming with people on Thursday morning.

According to local media reports, a huge voter turnout, said to be nearly 80 per cent, was reported in Hambantota and Matara in southern Sri Lanka, where incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa enjoys a strong support base. Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, where his principal challenger Maithripala Sirisena is hugely popular, saw a similarly high voter-presence at polling booths.

Minorities’ votes may hold the key

While Sri Lanka witnessed largely peaceful presidential elections on Thursday, some sections had flagged concerns about possible intimidation of voters by the army, particularly in war-torn north.

However, a large number of voters in the region came out early in the morning to exercise their franchise.

The voter turnout this time was high and it is expected to equal or even surpass the 2010 election’s 74.49 per cent.

With the contest appearing close, the minorities’ votes are likely to be decisive. Reports from the East, which has a large Muslim population, indicate that over 70 per cent polling was registered. Nearly 65 per cent voters in the Tamil-majority north seem to have voted.

“In its last two terms, the Rajapaksa government did not address our concerns convincingly,” said K. Rajachandran, leader of fishermen’s cooperative in Jaffna. “I felt strongly that we need a change. I am sure that’s how most people here feel.”

Special security arrangements are being made in Colombo for Friday when poll results will be out, police spokesperson Ajith Rohana said.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 1:47:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/rajapaksa-faces-tough-test-as-voting-ends-with-high-turn-out/article6768420.ece

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