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.
Early Saturday, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a convoy of more than 1
Gajanayake stated that there were no casualties and buses continue
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.
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.