Voting begins in Sri Lanka presidential polls
Published: 10:22 AM, 16 November 2019
Sri Lankans began voting Saturday in a tightly fought presidential election where former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa’s family is seeking a return to power after five years.
Polling booths opened across the island at 7:00 am (0130 GMT) and voting would continue for 10 hours under tight security provided by 85,000 police, an election commission official said.
Nearly 16 million voters will cast their vote in the country’s biggest election that is being closely fought by presidential hopeful Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sajith Premadasa, though a total of 35 candidates are in the race.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Party), was a powerful war-time defence secretary, who has made an entry into politics.
The younger brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, Mr. Gotabaya,70, is marking himself as a “strong leader”, promising a safe country in the wake of the prevalent anxiety over national security since the terror attacks.
On the other hand, Sajith Premadasa, 52, of the ruling United National Party (UNP) was named candidate after an insurgent campaign — drawing huge support from grassroots organizers.
He has been trying to rejuvenate the party’s diminishing rural vote base, much like his late father President Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was known for his rural connect. His campaign has been broadly on a plank of welfare, including shelter for all and universal education and health.