Tamil kingmakers steer clear of Sri Lanka presidential vote

Sri Lankans voted Thursday in presidential elections seen as a close race between the prime minister and the opposition leader but minority Tamils who could tip the balance largely shunned the vote. Sri Lankans voted Thursday in presidential elections seen as a close race between the prime minister and the opposition leader but minority Tamils who could tip the balance largely shunned the vote. Analysts said a low Tamil turnout could favour Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse over opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. Poll officials said Tamils were by and large boycotting the vote.

Election authorities sent buses to territory held by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to transport voters to polling booths in government-held areas, but there were few takers.

However there were still several hours to go before polls closed at 1000 GMT.

“A low turnout in Tamil areas is a clear advantage to the prime minister,” said Tamil politician Dharmalingam Sithadthan. “The boycott is depriving Ranil of the votes he would have otherwise got.”

Prime Minister Rajapakse has vowed a hardline approach to the Tigers if elected while Wickremesinghe wants to revive the peace talks and