Sri Lanka's local polls end with over 70% turnout

Sri Lanka's local polls end with over 70% turnout”

Former President Mahinda Rajapakse is trying to make a comeback through an opposition alliance while popularity of unity government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime minister Ranil Wickremsinghe, is under test.

A crucial local government election ended peacefully in Sri Lanka on Saturday as over 15 million voters cast their ballots to elect members to local government bodies, election monitors said.

Voting was largely peaceful except for few individual incidents.

Local observers said the enthusiasm was similar to January 2015 when just over 81 percent of the electorate turned out to vote President Sirisena and topple Mahinda Rajapaksa who had been in power for almost a decade.

The SLFP has been split with a faction under ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa contesting under a separate Sri Lanka Podujana Party.

"We did not see the acts seen during the time there were preference votes".

Alan Keenan, the Sri Lanka project director for the International Crisis Group, said, "how Mr. Sirisena's wing of the party does in the local votes would determine whether he refocused on his promised reforms or embraced Mr. Rajapaksa again".

"An independent elections commission is behind the whole process", Wickremesinghe said.

Police Spokesman, Superintendent of Police Ruwan Gunasekara said that the officers will be deployed throughout the island, for election-related duties and to maintain law and order while the election is taking place today and in the immediate aftermath of the polls.

He noted that 26,840 officers have been deployed to the 13,420 election centres.

The election heightened tensions between President Sirisena and his senior coalition partner, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, as they campaigned separately for their respective parties standing against each other.

It was also the first island-wide poll to be held since the coalition government of Sirisena and Wickremesinghe took office in August 2015.

The UNP has in turn accused Sirisena of backstabbing and indicated it may go it alone in the next general election in 2020.

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