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Mon, 24 November 2014 16:59:45
Sri Lanka president urges free and fair poll
25 Jan, 2010 13:16:34
January 25, 2010 (AFP) - Sri Lanka's president vowed Monday to ensure the island's first post-war presidential election goes off peacefully after deadly violence and opposition claims the ruling party was plotting a coup.
At least four people have been killed and hundreds wounded in the run-up to Tuesday's vote, being held after the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels were defeated by government troops in May, ending almost four decades of conflict.

Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapakse, who ordered the bloody military offensive that crushed the Tigers, is facing the strongest challenge from Sarath Fonseka, the army chief who led the troops in battle.

Rajapakse urged the authorities on Monday to conduct a free and fair poll and ensure that people could vote without fear of violence.

"The Sri Lanka government calls for a peaceful election, and stands committed to taking whatever steps deemed necessary to ensure the same," his office said in a statement.

About 120,000 public officials will oversee the ballot, in which 14 million people are eligible to choose from 22 candidates.

"We have sent ballot boxes to the provinces and all public servants involved in the conduct of the poll will be at their stations by noon today," a spokesman for the independent Elections Commission said.

The two Sinhalese nationalists fell out after the war, with Fonseka retiring from the military after he was sidelined by Rajapakse and launching his surprise challenge for the presidency.

Fonseka's side said Sunday there was evidence of a coup plot by Rajapakse's ruling party to try to hold on to power but the government denied any intention to subvert the electoral process.

Rajapakse called Tuesday's vote after only four years of his six-year mandate to try to harness public acclaim for victory over the Tiger rebels, who controlled one-third of Sri Lanka just 10 years ago.

The conflict between government troops and the Tigers cost between 80,000 and 100,000 lives, according to UN estimates.

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READER COMMENT(S)
1. arun tampoe Jan 26
Why state the obvious ? thanks to our Presidents and Prime Minsters of the last 60 years , elections are free and fair; and the best man wins!

Candidates do not subvert the electoral process; they abide by the rules laid down in the Constitution and the orders of the Election Commissioner; there is no impersonation or stuffing of ballot boxes; intimidation; bribery; thuggery etc like in other countries. We live by principle and precept; our leaders are pure in heart and selfless.