Rajapaksa, Sirisena Fate in the Balance as SL Goes to Poll
COLOMBO: Fifteen million Sri Lankan voters will be choosing the island nation’s next President in an evenly contested election on Thursday. Over 20,000 local and foreign monitors, including India’s former Chief Election Commissioner, SY Quraishi, along with 66,000 armed police will be keeping vigil.
According to the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, as on Tuesday, there were 420 incidents out of which 237 were major. In 26 cases, firearms were used, but there were no casualties. The police and the law courts have been quick to act against miscreants even if they are major politicos. Among those arrested are Senthil Thondaman and Kapila Sirisena, younger brother of joint opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena.
Though there are 19 candidates, the fight is basically between incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena.
Pre-poll opinion surveys have shown varying results, but all have predicted a narrow win. While Sirisena’s loyalists predict a 53 per cent score for him, Rajapaksa’s supporters say that he will win by 54 per cent. A minority is talking of the possibility of no one making it in the first round with a score of 50 per cent of votes plus one vote. The Sinhalese, who are 74 per cent of the population, are perceived to be divided. Sirisena’s supporters say that he will win because he has in addition the support of the Tamils and Muslims. But Rajapaksa is confident that he will get more of the Sinhalese votes than projected, because women, senior citizens and rural people are still with him. He is also counting on Tamils to reject Sirisena as he has done nothing particularly for them. While Rajapaksa is projecting himself as a harbinger of peace, security, strong government, Sirisena is projecting himself as a democrat who will release Sri Lanka from the dictatorship of Rajapaksa.