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
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.
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]