About 60 to 65 per cent voters turned out on initial counts to vote in the crucial elections to the provincial councils of North-Central and Sabaragamuwa on Saturday amid tight security and the threat of impending violence.
The build-up to the election was marred by poll-related violence with the ruling coalition United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), the principle opposition United National Party (UNP) and the radical JVP hurling accusations against each other of attempting to terrorise voters. Several incidents of arson and violence had indicated that today’s polling could be interspersed with political violence.
But on Saturday, the voting which started at 7 am and got over at 4 pm, concluded peacefully in the two provinces. Sporadic incidents of violence and a handful of arrests, however, were reported. Counting was to set to begin in the evening and the results expected Sunday.
The contest is expected to be close with the UPFA, headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, fighting it out with UNP, led by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
For Saturday, more than 21,000 policemen had thrown nets of security around 1,772 polling stations. In all, 1,698 candidates were in fray for 77 seats in the two councils and the strength of eligible voters crossing the million-mark
While the UPFA has re-nominated its former chief ministers, the UNP has fielded a retired military general and a Sinhala cinema hero as chief ministerial candidates.
In Anuradhapura district, part of the north-central province, brisk voting was seen in the morning.