Sri Lanka heads to polls for tense election

January 25, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka goes to the polls Tuesday in its first post-war presidential election, contested by the men who ended the island nation’s 37-year conflict but whose bitter clash threatens more instability. “If there is a war, we will face it,” he added, threatening street protests and rallies.

Rajapakse, like Fonseka a nationalist from the majority Sinhalese ethnic group, has vowed to ensure the poll goes off peacefully and has called on voters to give him a second mandate to develop the country post-war.

His supporters are drawn by the mustachioed 64-year-old’s charisma and populist approach and see him as the man who liberated the country from a fight with the Tigers that cost 80,000-100,000 lives, according to the UN.

Rajapakse and Fonseka fell out in the aftermath of the conflict when the army commander was moved to a ceremonial position by the president, who reportedly suspected him of plotting a coup himself.

Their relationship began to sour when Fonseka’s horoscope — astrology is taken extremely seriously in Sri Lanka — was read by an influential Buddhist monk who saw a future statesman in the career military man.

There are no reliable opinion polls in the country and poli