Sri Lanka wraps up final council poll ahead of national elections

October 10, 2009 (AFP) – Vote counting got under way in southern Sri Lanka Saturday after nine hours of polling for the final local council before national elections due next year, officials said. Nearly two thirds of the 1.7 million eligible voters turned out to elect the 55-member Southern Provincial Council, a stronghold of President Mahinda Rajapakse’s United People’s Freedom Alliance, an election official said.

“The voting ended peacefully and counting has begun,” a spokesman said, adding that the final result was expected on Sunday.

President Rajapakse voted at his southern home constituency of Beliatta.

Police said more than 7,000 additional constables had been deployed to guard polling booths.

National parliamentary elections are due to be held any time after April when the six-year term of the current legislature ends.

Political sources said the government may be encouraged to go for an earlier vote depending on the outcome of Saturday’s vote.

The ruling party is strongly tipped to win the southern council.