01/27/2010, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Rajapaksa re-elected, Fonseka rejects outcome

by Melani Manel Perera
Incumbent wins 57.9 per cent against 40.1 per cent for former chief of Defence Staff. For General Fonseka, the vote was rigged and must be annulled. He is holed up in a hotel, fearing he might be assassinated. Military claims it is seeking 400 deserters. Two people have died in clashes between opposing factions.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Mahinda Rajapaksa has been re-elected president of Sri Lanka. The Election Commission announced that the incumbent won 57 per cent of the vote. General Fonseka, his main rival, has rejected the results, saying the vote was rigged, and has promised to launch a legal challenge to the outcome of the ballot. The general is holed up in Colombo’s Cinnamon Grand Lake Hotel, which is surrounded by government troops.

President-elect Rajapaksa visited the headquarters of the Election Commission in Rajagiriya, a commercial and residential area of the capital, but did not make any official speech. In answering questions from a journalist, he said that he was the president of those who voted for him and those who did not, insisting that the law is the same for everyone.

Official results by the Election Commission indicate that Mahinda Rajapaksa won 5,927,717 votes or 57.9 per cent. His main challenger, Sarath Fonseka, won 4,110,176 votes or 40.1 per cent. This is a clear victory with a margin of 1,817,541 ballots.

All presidential candidates met at the Election Commission office, except for General Fonseka who stayed put at his hotel surrounded by troops.

Initially, a news report said that an arrest warrant had been issued for the general, but was later denied.

A government spokesperson said that there were no plans to arrest the former chief of Defence Staff, but a military spokesman said that they were on the lookout for deserters allegedly staying at the Cinnamon Grand Lake Hotel, and that the troops' deployment around the building was a "protective measure”, a claim flatly denied by the opposition.

Instead, General Fonseka said that the election was rigged, and called for its cancellation. He would launch a legal challenge to the election results.

In a letter to the Elections Commission, he listed his complaints and the reasons why he believes the result should be cancelled; among them, Rajapaksa’s misuse of state media.

What’s more, he demanded adequate protection for himself, saying that he would remain in the hotel because of possible attempts at his life.

In the meantime, a Buddhist monk and another man were killed following clashes between two groups in Nawalapitiya, in central Sri Lanka.

Police imposed a curfew on the town as well as on the Kurunduwatta and Gampola areas.

Independent election observers have complained about the amount of violence in the run-up to the election, especially by the people in the president's camp.

Independent monitors have also slammed the misuse of public resources and state media, particularly state-run TV, which provided blanket coverage of the incumbent president's campaign.

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