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Elections in Sri Lanka: Vote on Cleavage Campaign | news



Colombo, Sri Lanka – Sri Lankans voted in favor of electing a new president in an election that focused on religious tensions and the slowing economy in the South Asian island nation.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Defense Minister and brother of two-time former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sajith Premadasa, the candidate of the ruling United National Party (UNP), are the two best candidates in a poll with 35 record contenders vying for the leadership of the Sri Lankan government.

Polls opened at 7:00 am local time (01:30 GMT). According to the Electoral Commission, 1

5.9 million Sri Lankan citizens are eligible to vote in 12,845 polling stations in the 22 constituencies of the country.

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Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a convoy of more than 100 buses on Saturday in Thanthirimale, some 240 km north of Colombo, carrying voters – mainly Muslims.

] "Unknown groups have shot and thrown rocks at them," said Manjula Gajanayake, the National Coordinator of the Colombo-based Electoral Surveillance Center (CMEV).

Gajanayake said no casualties had been reported and the buses continued on their way.

Cleavage Campaign

Historically, voter turnout in presidential elections was high. In the last elections in 2015, more than 81.5 percent of voters cast their votes.

Outgoing President Maithripala Sirisena, who won the vote, will not seek re-election, but his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) supports Rajapaksa.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, whom Sirisena unsuccessfully attempted to remove last October, supports Premadasa, his own party candidate

The six-week campaign split the country, and Rajapaksa pledged to use strong, centralized leadership on security issues. The minister, who presided over the end of the 26 – year war of Sri Lanka against the Tamil rebels

demanded for a long time responsibility for the alleged disappearances, extrajudicial killings and other alleged offenses during this term According to a United Nations report, up to 40,000 Tamils ​​may have been killed during the last months of the war.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, named Prime Minister in his election according to Gotabaya, was also charged with widespread rights violations According to Leslie Rajakaruna, 78, a retired railroad officer, he voted for Gotabaya Rajapaksa because he was "a strong leader". [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

Vote in polling stations

Voters formed orderly lines outside the polling stations throughout Colombo when the poll was opened on Saturday.

Leslie Rajakaruna, 78, retired railroad officer, s help he chose for Gotabaya Rajapaksa because he was "a strong leader".

"There is too much foreign involvement, Sri Lanka should control itself," he said, claiming that the US had intervened in the country's domestic policy. European countries and the United Nations "

  Sri Lanka votes - Sandya Kumari

Sandya Kumari, 59, a cleaning lady in Colombo's Wellawatte region, said she voted for the UNP's Sajith Premadasa because he [poor people think] [19659024] Rajakaruna dismissed allegations of war crimes against the Rajapaksas as politically motivated.

"You will not be able to prove a single kidnapping, it's all wrong," he said.

Poulasingham Sridarasingh, 67, a Tamil bookstore owner, said he had voted, but had no expectations of improving the location of his ethnic community.

"We have a voting right, but we [Tamil people] have no voting rights," he said.

Sandya Kumari, 59, a cleaner in Col. The Wellwatte area of ​​Ombo said she voted for Sajith Premadasa of the UNP because "he thinks of poor people."

Premadasa focused on income groups that promise state-subsidized housing, more jobs and other benefits.

Pathinagodage Rajith, a mason, said he voted for Gotabaya Rajapaksa because he believed in his economic program.

"Economic issues are our biggest concern and we have to spend whatever we earn," said the 57-year-old, who earns around Rs. 30,000 ($ 166) a month.

38-year-old Imran Muhammad Ali works in the IT sector and voted against Gotabaya Rajapaksa for alleged infringements during his brother's term.

  INTERACTIVE: SRI LANKA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2019 - Voting at a Glance

For voters, a vote is slated for as economic growth will slow to 2.7 percent this year, according to the IMF, and security is down The suicide bombers on Easter Sunday, in which more than 269 people were killed, has become a major problem.

"The cost of living and the economic situation are our biggest problems," said Shriyani Gamage, 56, a housewife in the capital Colombo. "We do not have enough money … this country is at the mercy of the dogs."

Analysts say there is little choice between the economic policies of the candidates. [19659006] "It is a form of gross mercantilism in which the rich in C Olombo can thrive, but the middle class will also feel squeezed out," said Kumaradivel Guruparan, an academic in the northern city of Jaffna. "It's raw capitalism that is then sprinkled with here and there politics inspired by welfare economics or socialism."

Increasing tensions

The six-week campaign in the neck All over Sri Lanka tensions have intensified. The Center for Election Surveillance (CMEV) documents at least 743 electoral violations, including at least 45 cases of assault or threats.

The alleged violations are relatively evenly distributed among the two leading parties, the Sri Lanka People's Front (SLPP) of Rajapaksa and the UNP of Premadasa, as the CMEV data show.

Election observers state that in the run-up to the poll widespread abuse of government resources has taken place among governors, local government officials and citizens, others are using all state resources to illegally support both candidates.

"I'm not ready to say that this election is free and fair," said Gajanayake, CMEV's national coordinator. "Because of this [violations] elections can be manipulated."

Gajayanake drew particular attention to the support of Gotabaya Rajapaksa by prominent Buddhist religious leaders who allowed his party to camp on temple grounds.

Sinhalese – who According to the Sri Lankan government, these are mainly Buddhists, who make up about 70 percent of Sri Lanka's 21.8 million inhabitants.

Tamils ​​make up about 15 percent of the population, Muslims, many of whom consider themselves as an independent ethnic group 10 percent.

According to analysts, the minority vote will be decisive for the electoral victory.

"Both Tamils ​​and Muslims are likely to vote overwhelmingly for Sajith Premadasa, though this is not necessarily due to his policies," said Ahilan Kadirgamar, a Jaffna-based political economist citing minority fears of oppression Government of Rajapaksa.

On Wednesday, the International Crisis Group said the prospect of Gotabaya Rajapaksa's victory had produced "fear of a return to the violent past".

"The prospect of a new presidency of Rajapaksa has increased ethnic tensions and raised fears among minorities and democratic activists," ICG Director Alan Keenan wrote in Sri Lanka, describing the country's ethnic communities and threatening his recent modest democratic achievements.

Constitutional Crisis: Round Two?

Analysts Say Sat Urday's vote can also be viewed as a continuation of last year's constitutional crisis when President Sirisena tried to replace Wickremesinghe with Mahinda Rajapaksa, but ultimately was forced to revoke its ruling after the Supreme Court ruled that he did not have the authority to dismiss the Prime Minister

After both top candidates have announced their intention to replace Prime Minister Wickremesinghe when elected, the possibility is Kadirgamar said: "Once the presidential election is over and the president is elected, there will be a very quick reconfiguration of forces in parliament," he said.

When Rajapaksa wins, said Analysts to Al Jazeera, he would probably vote a vote of no confidence against Premier Wickremesinghe aspire to parliament. If Premadasa wins, he might ask Wickremesinghe – the leader of his party – to resign, they said.

"They will have an uncomfortable living together, either a temporary one, when Gotabaya Rajapaksa wins, and a possibly longer lasting one under Sajith Premadasa," said Keenan of the ICG to Al Jazeera.

The potential policy implications are complicated by the recent changes to the Sri Lankan constitution, which will weaken the power of the presidency and enter into force for the first time after this vote.

So far, everyone knew and hoped that the new president would establish his own administration and cabinet and appoint his own prime minister, "said Asanga Welikala, a Sri Lankan constitutional expert," this is no longer the president's power . "

  INTERACTIVE: SRI LANKA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2019 - Structure of Government

After the 19th Amendment of the Constitution, the Presidency has held the key powers, including the right to be deprived of ministerial functions from these elections.

Sri Lanka maintains a semi-presidential system of government in which the directly-elected president and a prime minister and a cabinet are members of Parliament and responsible to him, according to Welikala, "a system based on tensions."

"It is essentially a hybrid system between the US Presidency and the British Parliament system, "he said.

"The president is head of state, chief of cabinet and head of government.He is the only person elected directly.The president has power, but it is not an unimpeded power [anymore]."


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