More than 65% of Sri Lanka’s 15 million eligible voters on Monday turned up to vote in the general election that could decide former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s political future and help chart the country’s political course.
Polling was carried out without any major incidents reported. More than 65000 police personnel had been deployed.
Rajapaksa, from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and heading the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), is pitted against incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of the United National Party (UNP).
Counting of postal votes – votes cast by public servants who have been deployed on election-related duties – is expected to begin in the evening and the first round of results is expected around midnight.
The postal vote count usually reveals the election trend.
The main counting will commence around midnight and the national electoral trends will be clear by Tuesday morning.
According to local media, more than 6100 candidates from a record 35 political parties and 200 independent groups were vying for 196 parliamentary seats in the election.
“We are winning and I am confident of forming the government,” 69-year-old Rajapaksa told the media after voting in Hambantota, his hometown, south Sri Lanka.
In Colombo, PM Wickremesinghe sounded similarly confident after voting on Monday morning. The PM said he was “very confident” about forming the government.
He added that the election had been “free and fair”.
The election, according to experts, has been fairly close though the UNP is said to have the edge.
“We did a survey in the last week of July. We asked the respondents who they would like to be the Prime Minister. The overwhelming response from the Muslims Tamils and Christians was that they wanted Ranil. Among the Sinhalese respondents, 36 % wanted Rajapaksa and 32 % wanted Ranil. The sample size was 2000,” Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu from the Centre for Policy Alternatives told HT.
Most analysts said that Rajapaksa’s popularity among large sections of the Sinhalese community was the driving force behind his alliance.
A defeat in this election could signal the gradual attrition of Rajapaksa’s popularity, Saravanamuttu added.