01/26/2010, 00.00
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Polls open. Blasts in Jaffna

High tension and security at a maximum. Among the 22 candidates, the most probable are the former President Rajapaksa and General Fonseka. People want the fruits of peace and greater development. 47% of the population lives below the poverty line.

Colombo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - From 7 this morning all polling stations in the Sri Lankan presidential election are open, the first vote as a united country, after the war against Tamil rebels that lasted nearly 26 years.

Tension is very high. More than 68 thousand policemen have been deployed to ensure order. This morning, hours before the opening of the polls, the people of Jaffna,  in area once under the Tamil guerrillas, heard 4 explosions. In recent months, 4 people were killed and there were at least 800 violent incidents related to the campaign. Approximately 250 thousand observers are monitoring the fairness of elections.

There are 22 candidates competing for President, but the most likely winners are the current President Mahinda Rajapaksa or former head of the Armed Forces, gen. Sarath Fonseka. The first seeks to exploit the notoriety and success of the war against the Tamils, the second proposes a fight against corruption, pervasive in the current government. The two, who were allies until a year ago (see photo) are now on opposing sides.  

Instead the population is demanding peace and greater economic development for a country that - thanks to widespread corruption - is still suffering the consequences of the tsunami of 2004, as well as those of war.  

At least 47% of Sri Lankans live on less than $ 2 per day. Inflation is high and in recent years has reached 20%.  

Sri Lanka, with a population of 20 million, is 74% of Sinhalese, 12% Tamils. The problem of coexistence was the cause of the recent war. The governments treatment of 300 thousand Tamil refugees incarcerated in northern refugee camps weighs heavily on the outcome of the election.  

Catholics are 6.7% of the population and are among the most prominent voices who have long sought reconciliation in the country.

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