August 17, 2015
By Arpit Goel
Voting for new parliament closes, in virtual referendum on former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa’s comeback bid.
Voting has closed in Sri Lanka’s general election, a poll widely regarded as a referendum on the political future of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The main contest is between Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and outgoing prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP), which formed a minority government after Rajapaksa was defeated in January’s presidential election. Both are vying for the post as prime minister.
The alliance that swept Rajapaksa from power, led by President Maithripala Sirisena, is also seeking a stronger mandate for reforms, as the nation seeks to elects the 225-member parliament in Monday’s elections.
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Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from Colombo, said that early indications suggested that turnout was about 60 to 65 percent.
“In general, the election has been pretty peaceful, with no untoward incidents,” she said.
The president has threatened to invoke his executive powers to prevent his combative predecessor from becoming prime minister, but Rajapakse is hoping a strong showing will force Sirisena to back down.
Polls closed at 4pm (10:30 GMT) and results are expected on Tuesday.
Al Jazeera spoke to voters in the capital Colombo, and asked what they hope for from their new government.
HK Lasantha, 38, and Dineesha Lasantha, 38
IT businessman and housewife
“We are hoping for the country being free of corruption. Everything is related to law and order. If you have that then everything is fine. This is our country and we want to live here and protect it and make it prosper.”
K Jafferjee, 54
“I’m voting for democracy, freedom, fairness, equality, friendly atmosphere and economic prosperity for all. I would like my country to copy the formula of Singapore and the Far East – inclusive development for all.”
Sarojini Kadiragama, 8 8
“I realised that we are never going to have a clean parliament. Corruption is here and it’s going to stay. But I want a government that will deal with it and not sweep it under the carpet. A government that will give its people the right to hold the goverment accountable for its actions.”
Neshani Jayamaha Dahanayake
“I’m voting for progress for the country. I want it to be as it was before. I feel that since the beginning of this year, we haven’t progressed in any way.”
Buddhika Prasan, 21
“I am voting for a higher employment rate and equal opportunities for all. No matter if they are Sinhala or Tamil or Muslim or Christian. I’m hoping that people will get a chance to make something of themselves based on merit and not on your ethnic or religious or financial background.”