COLOMBO: A record high of 80 percent of the total 16 million voters exercised their right at 12,845 polling booths across Sri Lanka in the country’s presidential election on Saturday.
Hambantota saw the highest turnout among the districts at 85 percent, while the Mannar district was the lowest with 62 percent.
The two main contenders for the presidency are Sajith Premadasa, from the New Democratic Front (NDF) and Gotabaya Rajapaksa from Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.(SLPP).
“We have polled more than 80 percent in our stronghold districts in the southern part of the island and we are heading for a comfortable victory,” Ali Sabry, chief legal officer to Rajapaksa, told Arab News.
“We have always lived in a democracy. We have guarded it and strengthened it over the decades, proud that so many Sri Lankans have fulfilled their civic responsibility by voting today,” Premadasa said.
The authorities had started counting the postal votes at 5.15 p.m. after polls closed. Postal votes were taken in advance by government officers.
The first postal vote results will be announced before midnight on Saturday, according to an Election Commission official.
The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence reported that a total of 196 violations had been recorded so far. The majority of those were incidents of intimidation, attempts at influencing and illegal campaigning. One shooting was also reported.
Gunmen attacked a bus carrying internally displaced refugees near the road connecting Puttalam and Mannar. Rishath Bathiudeen, minister of industry and commerce, told Arab News the attack was to prevent the refugees from voting. “However, the timely intervention of the security authorities helped these people cast their votes without any (further) hassle,” he said.
Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya said that there had been no incidents of serious violence on Saturday, and commended the security services.
Deshapriya also said that he would be able to announce the final result of the polls by Sunday evening
The outgoing president, Mathripala Sirisena, said: “Although my achievements are not tangible in a materialistic sense, I was able to ensure freedom, democracy and governance without corruption.”
In his final address to the nation, the outgoing president added he was proud to have uphold democracy during his tenure. He said that the biggest challenge the new president would face would be appointing a cabinet free of corrupt members.