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Sri Lanka Elections: Voting in progress after a partitioning campaign News



Colombo, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka began voting on Saturday to elect a new president of elections that shows growing religious tensions and a slowing economy to take center stage in an island nation in South Asia.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Minister of Defense and brother of two-time former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sajit Premadasa, the candidate of the ruling United National Party (UNP), are the first two candidates to have candidates in the poll

Polls opened at 7:00 am local time (1:30 am GMT), with 15.9 million Sri Lankans eligible to vote in 12,845 polling stations in 22 constituencies in the country, according to the Election Commission.

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Early Saturday, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a convoy of more than 1

00 buses carrying voters – mainly Muslims – in Thanthirimale, about 240 km (150 miles) north of Colombo, election observers said. [19659006] "U unidentified groups have been stoning and stoning," said Manjula Gajanayake, national coordinator of the Columbian Election Violence Monitoring Center (CMEV).

Gajanayake stated that there were no casualties and buses continue

Separation campaign

Historically, turnout for the presidential election is high, with more than 81.5 percent of voters casting their ballots in the last election in 2015

Outgoing President Maitripala Sirisena, who won this vote, will not seek re-election, but his Freedom Party in Sri Lanka (SLFP) supports the Rajapaksa.

Prime Minister Ranil Vikremesinghe, who unsuccessfully tried to oust Sirisena last October, backs his own party's candidate, Premadasa.

The six-week campaign divided the country, promising Rajapaksa to enter into a strong, centralized security leadership, boasting that it was the defense minister who presided over the end of the 26-year war in Sri Lanka with the Tamil rebels.

The rights group has long called for responsibility for allegations of violent disappearances, extrajudicial killings and other misconduct allegedly committed during that time.

According to a United Nations report, up to 40,000 Tamils ​​may have been killed in the last months of the war.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, who Gottabaya says will appoint a prime minister if elected, has also been accused of widespread abuse of rights aimed at tacit disagreement during his previous two terms in office.

  Sri Lanka votes - Leslie Rajakaruna

Leslie Rajakaruna, 78, a retired railway official, declared that he voted for Gotabaya Rajapaksa because he was a "strong leader" [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

Voting precincts

Voters form neat lines outside Colombo polling stations when the ballot opens on Saturday.

Leslie Rajakaruna, 78, a retired railroad officer, with the help, he voted for Gotabaya Rajapaksa because he is a "strong leader".

"There is too much foreign involvement, Sri Lanka must control itself," he said, referring to the US, European countries and United Nations interference in the country's domestic politics.

  Votes in Sri Lanka - Sandya Kumari

Sandya Kumari, a 59-year-old woman cleaner in Colombo's Welawa region, said she voted for the SNP's Sait Premadasa because "he thinks of poor people" [19659024] Rajakaruna has denied allegations of war crimes against the Rajapaksa as politically motivated.

"They they were able to prove no abduction, everything was false, "he said.

Poulasingham Šidarasingh, 67, a Tamil bookstore owner, said he voted but had no expectation that things would improve for his ethnic community.

"We have the right to vote, but we [Tamil people] don't get any of that," he said.

Sandia Kumari, 59, a cleaner in Koh Welboatte's ombo district said she voted for the UNP's Sait Premadasa because "he thinks of poor people."

The Premadasa campaign focused on lower-income groups, promising government-subsidized housing, more jobs and other benefits.

Pathinagodage Rajit, a Mason, said he voted for Gotabaya Rajapaksa because he believed in his economic agenda.

"Economic issues are our biggest concern. What we earn, we have to spend, "says the 57-year-old, who earns around Rupees 30,000 in Sri Lanka ($ 166) a month.

Imran Mohammed Ali, 38, works in the IT sector and said he voted against Gotabaya Rajapaksa for alleged rights violations during his brother's term.

  INTERACTIVE: SRI LANKA'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS 2019 - Voting at a glance

Electoral elections come 2, since economies are down since 7.7 IMF and security say this year has become a major problem since suicide attacks Easter Sunday, which killed more than 269 people.

"The cost of living and the state of the economy are our biggest problems," says 56-year-old Shriani Gamage, a host in the capital, Colombo. "This country has gone for dogs."

Analysts say that there is nothing to choose between the economic policies of candidates. [19659006] "This is a form of crude mercantilism where the rich C olombo can prosper, but the middle class will also feel worn out," said Kumaradivel Guruparan, an academic in the northern city of Jaffna. "Then rough capitalism is sprinkled with policies inspired by the welfare economy or socialism."

Tension escalation

A six-week campaign in the neck of the race monitors tensions in Sri Lanka, of Election Violence (CMEV) has documented at least 743 electoral violations, including at least 45 cases of assault or threat.

The alleged violations are split relatively equally between the two leading parties, the Rajapaksa Popular Front (SLPP) and the Premadasa UNP, CMEV data show.

Election observers claim that there was widespread misuse of government resources in the course of the poll with governors, local government officials, and others using all state resources to illegally support both candidates.

"I'm not ready to say these elections are free and fair," said Gajanayake, CMEV's national coordinator. "Because of these [violations]elections can be manipulated."

Gajayanake in particular cited the support of Gotabaya Rajapaksa by prominent Buddhist religious leaders who allowed his party to campaign on the premises of the temple.

Sinhalese – who are predominantly Buddhist – make up about 70 percent of Sri Lanka's 21.8 million citizens, according to Sri Lankan government

Tamils ​​make up about 15 percent of the population, with Muslims – many of whom consider themselves they are a separate ethnic group – they form roughly 10 percent.

Analysts claim that a minority vote will be crucial in determining who will win the election.

"Both Tamils ​​and Muslims are likely to vote too much for Sajit Premadasa, though not necessarily because of his politics," said Ahilan Kadirgamar, a Jaffna-based politician.

On Wednesday, the International Crisis Group said the prospect of victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa has created a "fear of returning to violence in the past [a]".

"The prospect of a new Rajapaksa presidency has heightened ethnic tensions and raised concerns among minorities and democratic activists, writes ICG Sri Lanka Director Alan Kinan.

"They are worried about choosing Gotabaya, a strong Sinhalese nationalist, and will deepen the already serious differences between the ethnic communities of the country and threaten its recent modest democratic gains. "

Constitutional Crisis: Second Round?

Analysts say the sub-vote tomorrow could also be seen as a continuation of last year's constitutional crisis when President Sirisena tried to replace Wickremeshechem. Mahinda Rajapaksa, but was eventually forced to overturn his decision after the Supreme Court stated that he had no power to release the PM

With the two main candidates stating their intention to replace Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, if elected, the possibility of opposing

"Once the presidential election is over and the president is elected, there will be a reallocation of power in parliament very soon," he said.

If Rajapaksa wins, analysts tell Al Jazeera "that he is likely to attempt a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Wickremesinghe in parliament. If Premadasa wins, he may ask Wickremesinghe – his party's leader – to step down, they said.

"You will have an inconvenient cohabitation, or temporarily, if Gotabaya Rajapaksa wins, and possibly longer Sajit Premadasa," the ICG Keyen told Al Jazeera.

The potential political implications are compounded by the recent changes to Sri Lanka's constitution, which weaken the presidency and enter into force for the first time since this vote.

"Everyone knew, first and foremost, that the new president would create his own administration, his own cabinet, and appoint his own prime minister," says Asanga Velikala, a constitutional expert from Sri Lanka. "This is no longer the power the president has."

  INTERACTIVE: SRI LANKA'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS 2019 - Government Structure

According to the 19th constitution, the Presidency is deprived of key powers, including the admissibility of holding ministerial portfolios from these elections in 19659. constitutes a semi-presidential system of government in which the executive is composed of the directly elected president and the prime minister and cabinet, which are composed and answerable to parliament, this is a "system built on tension", according to Welikala. [19659006] "It is essentially a hybrid system between the US Presidency and the UK parliamentary system," he said. "

" The president is the head of state, the head of cabinet and the head of government. He is the only person directly elected. The president has power, but it is not unprecedented power [anymore]. "


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