Sri Lanka presidential polls marred by reports of intimidation

EconomyNext – Voting in Sri Lanka’s presidential election was largely peaceful but polls monitors reported a few incidents of intimidation and illegal campaigning for the incumbent, President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) said in a statement there was a hand grenade blast in Point Pedro, in northern Jaffna with no injuries reported.

CMEV said it received a report of over 200 voters being prevented from voting in north-western Puttalam by ruling party supporters who used threats to block bus services there.

"CMEV is concerned that voters are being prevented from exercising their franchise and urge the authorities to take immediate action.

"CMEV has raised the issue with the Commissioner of Elections, Mahinda Deshapriya urging immediate action. He informed CMEV that he is aware of the situation."

CMEV also said it received reports of a number of incidents where attempts have been made to intimidate of voters in southern Matara and attempts to force voters to support President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Rajapaksa faces a stiff challenge from the main opposition candidate, Maithripala Sirisena, a former health minister and ruling party general secretary who defected to join the opposition.

"CMEV also notes several areas where there was no privacy in the voting booths in the polling centers and where voting is visible to persons in the polling station and outside," the statement said.

"Areas where this has been reported included Matara (Polling centres 40-41), Pottuvil (Polling centre 64) and Mullaitivu areas (Polling centre 77)."

CMEV said it is continuing to receive reports of campaigning on election day despite it being forbidden under electoral law.

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Some of the reports received include unsolicited SMS messages being circulated and distribution of campaign material in and around polling stations.

CMEV said all such complaints were against the ruling party.
 

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