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Millions vote as Sri Lanka’s presidential battle ends

Colombo, January 8: More than 11 million people voted across Sri Lanka on Thursday in a close presidential race between incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa, in power since 2005, and joint opposition candidate Maithripala Sirise. Officials said more than 80 percent of the 14.5 million electorate exercised their franchise in what could turn out to be one of the tightest contests in the island tion, the media reported.

Men and women voters formed long queues at most polling centres in the island tion including the Tamil–majority north and the multi–racial east where the now vanquished Tamil Tigers once held sway. “It was a peaceful election,” one official told the media.

Barring a grede attack in the northern Tamil town of Point Pedro that wounded none, the balloting across Sri Lanka was largely peaceful.

Rajapaksa is fighting for an unprecedented third term. His former health minister Sirise has been fielded by the New Democratic Front, a grouping of virtually all opposition parties. The results will be known on Friday. Millions turned out in droves to elect a president, Xinhua said. Officials here reported brisk voting in most places right from the time polling started at 7 in the morning. Voter enthusiasm was high in the northern and eastern provinces, the former conflict zone and where the military crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009. Closer to Colombo, voter turnout hit 50 percent within hours.

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) reported brisk voting in the southern parts of the country which is largely populated by the Sinhalese, the majority community to which Rajapaksa and Sirise belong. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita

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