07/22/2011, 00.00
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As Sri Lankans vote in local polls, Rajapaksa could lose the North

by Melani Manel Perera
Some 2.6 million voters go to the polls tomorrow in 2,226 polling stations to select 875 candidates. Monitoring institutes report violations during the election campaign in Jaffna and Kilinochchi. Apparently, the ruling party used soldiers to intimidate opposition candidates and supporters.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – The election for 65 local councils is scheduled for tomorrow. About 2.6 million voters are eligible to cast their ballot in 2,226 polling stations to select 875 candidates. The government announced that all steps have been taken to ensure a free and fair election, but the Elections Department and election monitoring institutes have received several complaints about irregularities during the election campaign.

The Campaign for Free and Fair Election (CAFFE) has reported that most violations have taken placed in the Northern Province, especially in Jaffna and Kilinochchi, a crucial region for President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ruling United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA). The predominantly Tamil region took the brunt of 30 years of interethnic war.

Yesterday, the Network for Election Monitoring of the Intellectuals for Human Rights (NEMIHR) also said it received 88 complaints against the UPFA. They include 36 cases of election violence, 30 instances of election violations, 13 cases of using state property and state power, 3 cases of police favouritism and 6 examples of undue use of influence on the public.

According to NEMIHR, the ruling party used 250 public buses to bring people to a presidential rally on Wednesday. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Rajapaksa:-Sri-Lanka-does-not-need-Europe%E2%80%99s-advice-22150.html

UPFA politicians, including lawmaker Namal Rajapaksa, handed out food near polling stations in Kilinochchi District to influence voters.

More complaints involve the army. Opposition officials said that some soldiers have threatened and terrorised opposition candidates and supporters.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) announced that it would assign two teams of officials to monitor tomorrow’s elections in Jaffna and Kilinochchi districts.
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