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Susannah Price reports from Colombo
"The President is retaining her lead"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 03:02 GMT
Kumaratunga ahead in Sri Lanka poll

President Kumaratunga cast her vote at her residence President Kumaratunga cast her vote at her residence

President Chandrika Kumaratunga is ahead of her main opponent in Sri Lanka's presidential election, according to early results.

Conflict in Sri Lanka
  • An unwinnable war?
  • Timeline of conflict
  • Leading the Tigers
  • The ethnic divide
  • With votes counted in about one-third of the constituencies, Mrs Kumaratunga - who survived an assassination attempt during her final election rally - is projected to take 51% of the vote, with opposition candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe on 42%.

    About three-quarters of Sri Lanka's 11.7 million voters took part in the poll, which was marred by violence and allegations of misconduct.

    An overnight curfew was enforced after at least six people were killed in election-related violence, but this has now been lifted.

    Election monitors say they are still investigating allegations of vote-rigging and intimidation by party activists, especially in the central areas of the island.

    They said there were 500 fraud complaints from across the country,

    Victims of violence
    1991 - Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
    1993 - Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa
    1994 - Sri Lankan opposition leader Gamini Dissanayake
    Thousands of security personnel were deployed to keep the peace, with armed police guarding polling booths

    President Kumaratunga did not cast her vote in her home constituency. She was permitted to cast her vote in her heavily guarded official residence, having only been discharged from hospital on Monday after being treated for shrapnel injuries.

    There was speculation that Mrs Kumaratunga would benefit from a sympathy vote following her narrow escape.

    But Mr Wickremesinghe said he did not believe the impact would be significant, and the president's supporters said she would have won anyway.

    However, the president does not look likely to repeat her success of five years ago, when she swept to power with 62% of the vote.

    Ending the war

    Mrs Kumaratunga and Mr Wickremesinghe have both promised to boost the economy and end the 16-year war with the Tamil Tigers, who are fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils in the country's north and east.

    President Kumaratunga appeared on television President Kumaratunga appeared on television
    In a televised address after her release from hospital, the president said all communities should join hands "in a massive effort to take forward the process of wiping out terrorism and re-establishing peace and democracy".

    The assassination attempt at the weekend was one of two bomb attacks which are being blamed on the Tamil Tiger rebels. The other was aimed at an opposition rally.

    At least 35 people were killed and more than 100 injured.

    Although not all Tamils support the rebels' methods, many sympathise with their demand for a separate homeland in the north of the country.

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    See also:
    20 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Analysis: Violence sets poll agenda
    18 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Analysis: Fifteen years of bloodshed
    19 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    In pictures: Rally ends in terror
    20 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Prayer beats politics on the plantation
    17 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Chandrika Kumaratunga: Politics in the blood
    10 Nov 99 |  Talking Point
    Can there be peace in Sri Lanka?
    17 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Ranil Wickramasinghe: The opposition's hope
    16 Nov 99 |  South Asia
    Sri Lanka battle lines drawn

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