04/02/2004, 00.00
Sri Lanka
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General elections in times of uncertainty, jeopardized internal peace

Colombo (Asia News/Agencies) – Sri Lankans turned out in droves on election day to cast their ballots for members of the 13th Parliament since 1948, the year country earned its independence from Britain.

These are the third general elections called in just four years, as voters went to polls under the tight surveillance of 64,000 soldiers keeping watch over public order. However government authorities have not reported any particular incidents, not even in the country's northern and eastern regions under the control of Tamil Tiger rebel forces.

A record number of candidates have competed for the 225 total seats in Parliament. However the final outcome of the 13 million votes cast will be not be released until tomorrow.

Analysts predict that a divided Parliament will be elected, greatly jeopardizing the already precarious peace negotiations with separatist Tamil rebel leaders.

Elections were called due to disagreements between Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga (of the left-wing Freedom Alliance party) and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (of the United National Party) concerning the peace talks occuring under Norwegian supervision. The talks have intended to end the bloodbath between Tamil Tiger militants and state troops. The death toll currently stands at a total of 65,000 victims since 1983.   

Kumaratunga had accused the Prime Minister of having given in too much to Tamil rebels and having placed the Sri Lanka's national security at risk.

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