Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sri Lanka: Mahinda Rajapaksa defeats rival - state TV

State TV said President Mahinda Rajapaksa defeated his main rival, former military chief Sarath Fonseka

Sri Lankan state television says incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa has won Tuesday's presidential election.

Official final results have not been announced, but early results showed Mr. Rajapaksa with more 60 percent of the vote, to 36 percent for his main rival, former military chief Sarath Fonseka.

A Sri Lankan military spokesman said government troops surrounded the central Colombo hotel where General Fonseka is staying Wednesday. The spokesman said there are about 400 people, including army deserters, who gathered at the hotel after the election in support of the general.

The election was a fierce battle between the two men considered war heroes by the country's Sinhalese majority for winning a quarter-century civil war against minority Tamil rebels.

Following a campaign marred with violence, Tuesday's election was largely peaceful. There are 14 million registered voters in Sri Lanka, and officials say the overall voting turnout was around 70 percent.

On Tuesday, the government said it planned to take legal action against the general's candidacy because he is not a registered voter. Within hours of the polls closing Tuesday, Foreign Minister Rohita Bogollogama said the government will go to court to declare him ineligible to run for president.

Fonseka admitted he did not vote in the presidential poll because his name was not on the voter registration list. But he said that despite the glitch, he is legally qualified to be elected and serve as president.

Sri Lanka's election commissioner Dayananada Dissanayaka supported General Fonseka's interpretation. But government officials said it will be up to the courts to make a legal ruling on the matter.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters, AFP and AP

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