Sri Lanka votes in tense post-war election

January 26, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lankans voted in their first post-war presidential election on Tuesday amid claims of violence and voter intimidation after a bitter and highly personal campaign. The contest was a straight fight between the incumbent, Mahinda Rajapakse, and his former army chief Sarath Fonseka, and was seen as too close to call by political observers.

Allies in the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels in May, the two men had a very acrimonious falling out after the conflict ended and both ran campaigns that sought to take personal credit for the military victory.

Polls closed at 4:00 pm (1030 GMT) with election monitors reporting a turnout of up to 80 percent in the south of the island, but a far weaker showing in the Tamil-dominated north, where voters were rattled by a series of pre-dawn bomb blasts.

Both sides predicted victory when results are announced Wednesday and blamed each other for the poll-related violence in several areas that prompted a negative verdict from observers.

“We can’t say it was a free and fair election because there were a number of incidents all over the country,” said D.M. Dissanayake, national coordinator of the independent Centre for M