Sri Lanka votes in tense post-war election

Sri Lanka votes in tense post-war election

Colombo: Sri Lankans voted under tight security in their first post-war presidential election on Tuesday amid claims of violence and voter intimidation after a bitter and highly personal campaign.

Both sides said they expected to emerge victorious when results are announced on Wednesday and blamed each other for a series of election-day attacks, which one monitoring group said might number 150 in total.

“We will have a great victory," President Mahinda Rajapakse told reporters after casting his ballot in his southern home constituency of Mulkirigala.

“We must be ready to face the challenges of reaching new heights after this vote," added the 64-year-old, who called the election only four years into his six-year term to seize on the government’s victory over Tamil rebels last year.

Polls closed at 4:00 pm (1030 GMT), with early results expected later on Tuesday in the contest between Rajapakse and his former army chief, Sarath Fonseka.

In a last-minute quirk, Fonseka suffered the embarrassment of not being able to vote himself, a problem he blamed on his name being omitted from the 2008 electoral register which was used for the poll.

He said he and his family were eager to take part, even though buses that were meant to transport them never turned up.

“We walked to vote because we felt it was important after the war," he told AFP. “I was keen to have a say in who should be our next president."

The opposition has said it will not accept the result if the 68,000 police and 12,000 soldiers on duty failed to prevent violence or if there was evidence of vote-rigging.

The technicolour alliance behind Fonseka of Marxists, Muslims, Tamils and right-wingers has threatened to stage street protests if it feels the result has been stolen.

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