Presidential elections in Sri Lanka to determine the future peace process

Soldiers patrolled streets leading to Sri Lanka's elections offices on Friday during the final hours for candidations to register for presidential elections that will determine the future of the country's peace process.

Fourteen people have announced plans to contest the Nov. 17 polls and were required to file nomination papers early Friday with the Election Commission.

The leading candidates are Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse of the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance and opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The campaign is largely seen as a referendum on how to end the ethnic civil war with Tamil Tiger rebels that has killed nearly 65,000 people since the rebel campaign began in 1983. Rajapakse has courted nationalist parties opposed to a Norwegian-brokered peace process with the Tigers, and has vowed to review the foundations of the peace process if elected.

Wickremesinghe, however, wants to revive peace talks with the rebels which have been stalled since 2003 and solve the conflict through a federal system. Two other prominent candidates are Victor Hettigoda, a businessman in Sri Lanka's herbal medicine industry, and Zainulabdeen Nazeer Ahmed of the Muslim minority, reports the AP. I.L.

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