Thursday, 8 January 2015

Sri Lanka’s election: Knife-edge

Nguồn tin: nguontinviet.com


SRI LANKANS were going to the polls as The Economist went to press at the end of a hotly contested presidential race, marred in its final days by violence and intimidation. The elections commissioner saw fit to take tough new measures to prevent rigging: for the first time, results will be released directly, not via the information department of the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The commissioner is also allowing independent observers to go into the counting centres, and he gave warning that he would order a revote in areas with egregious irregularities.


Observer groups have documented hundreds of incidents during the campaign, including threats, intimidation, stonings and shoot-outs. One person has died. In the north, where most of the minority Tamils live, there was some concern that soldiers would make voters stay at home. The government has maintained a heavy military presence there since its rout of the Tamil Tigers in 2009.


The election pits 19 candidates against each other, but the only ones that count are Mr Rajapaksa, who is seeking a third term, and Maithripala Sirisena, Mr Rajapaksa’s health minister until his defection in November. Since then 26 other ministers and lawmakers have deserted the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance to support Mr Sirisena’s candidacy. (Mr Rajapaksa gained two from the opposition in return.)


Backed by nearly 50 political parties or other groups, Mr Sirisena has campaigned by railing against “the corrupt and nepotistic Rajapaksa regime”. He accuses the president of “acting like an emperor” and of sidelining his cabinet. Mr Rajapaksa’s camp says the opposition’s campaign has run only on “rumours, social media and crossovers”. There is, Mr Rajapaksa’s people say, no proof supporting allegations of corruption; Sri Lankans must simply do their duty and re-elect the man who won them peace. With all manner of family members installed in plum positions, the Rajapaksas have a lot to lose.





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