Close fight for Sri Lankan presidency at half-way mark

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse was marginally ahead of his main rival after 50 percent of votes were counted in the country’s presidential election, officials said Friday. Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse was marginally ahead of his main rival after 50 percent of votes were counted in the country’s presidential election, officials said Friday. Results released by electoral authorities showed that Rajapakse had received 2.61 million votes, or 51.11 percent of the 5.1 million votes counted so far. Some 10 million valid votes were cast in total.

Former premier Ranil Wickremesinghe was closely trailing with 2.43 million ballots, or 47.59 percent of the votes counted so far.

Spokesmen for the prime minister and the opposition leader made rival claims of victory and coincidentally both camps said they would emerge on top with a slender 75,000-vote margin.

With the neck-and-neck race, officials said the final results would take longer than they had expected because both main contenders were expected to demand recounts in areas not favourable to them.

Earlier incomplete results included a significant number of postal ballots cast by public servan