Sri Lanka

Reports of violence, intimidation in Sri Lanka election

Reuters

Election observers in Sri Lanka have reported intimidation and poll-related violence as people headed voted to elect a new parliament. The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence reported 160 violent incidents during the first four hours of voting, most instigated by supporters of the ruling party.

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"Pro-government supporters are reported to have intimidated voters," said CMEV spokesperson DM Dissanayake, who said that most complaints were against the United People's Freedom Alliance, the ruling party of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

In some polling areas, unidentified men had grabbed voting cards from people trying to vote, according to Dissanayake.

In the south of the country a shoot-out between opposition and government supporters early Thursday damaged a vehicle, but caused no injuries.

Dissanayake said many in makeshift state-run shelters for people displaced by war were not provided with transport to get to polling stations.

Another election observer, the private People's Action for Free and Fair Elections, reported cases of pro-government supporters chasing away opposition polling agents.

Some 60,000 police officers have been deployed and another 20,000 military personnel are on reserve to address any major outbreak of violence.

More than 14 million people are eligible to vote for the 7,620 candidates for parliament, from 36 political parties and 310 independent groups.

First results are expected by midday Friday.

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