Sri Lankans vote for new President

Sri Lankans voted to elect a new President today amid tight security after the killing of at least six people in the eastern province on the eve of the polls.People began trickling into voting booths at 7.00 a.m. (0630 IST) even as party officials feared that violence would discourage people in the multi-ethnic east from casting their ballot.

Some 13.3 million people are eligible to vote in the presidential election, Sri Lanka's fourth national poll in six years.

Despite there being 13 candidates running for the top job, a close fight is predicted between the two front-runners - incumbent Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and the Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Both are members of the majority Sinhalese community which appeared split down the middle over the two, leaving the minority Tamils in the role of kingmaker. The winner would replace outgoing President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who lost a court bid to remain in office.

The future of the peace process as well as Sri Lanka's worsening economy after decades of war and last year's tsunami disaster have emerged the two key issues in the election.

Security was tight with more than 60,000 policemen and 8,000 soldiers guarding booths at the over 10,000 polling stations following yesterday's killings by unknown assailants of three Sinhalese, two Tamils and one Muslim which analysts say could have been a bid to scare away members of those communities from polling booths, reports Chennai Online News. I.L.

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