Page last updated at 03:17 GMT, Sunday, 24 January 2010

Sri Lanka candidate Fonseka issues poll violence alert

Gen Sarath Fonseka, 23 Jan
Gen Fonseka warns the ruling party plans to rig the vote

The main opposition candidate in Sri Lanka's presidential election has accused the ruling party of planning violence to win Tuesday's vote.

Gen Sarath Fonseka said the violence would deter voters and a low turnout would help the party of President Mahinda Rajapaksa rig the election.

Election clashes have so far left four dead and hundreds wounded.

The government denies it has been behind the unrest and says it is stepping up security for the poll.

Saturday was the final day of campaigning, with both of the main candidates holding their last election rallies.

'Gravely concerned'

President Rajapaksa and Gen Fonseka are closely associated with the government's defeat of the Tamil Tigers last May but the pair fell out bitterly soon after.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Mr Rajapaksa's party says security is being enhanced for the vote

Gen Fonseka said on Saturday: "They are getting ready for violence. The violence will support the rigging basically. The violence will reduce the voter attendance, then the rigging will take place."

The general said he was hoping the security forces would protect his candidacy, adding that he expected most of them to vote for him.

He added: "We can't counter violence with violence. We have to abide by the law."

Mr Rajapakse's office said on Friday it was "gravely concerned" about the violence.

A ruling party statement said: "Instructions have been given to the authorities to bolster security at sensitive locations and all political events up to and on polling day to ensure that all Sri Lankans can participate safely in the electoral process."

The election commissioner has urged both sides to work towards easing the violence.

The result of the election is expected on Wednesday.

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Mail & Guardian Online Sri Lanka president urges fair vote on election eve - 3 hrs ago Profiles: Sri Lankan election candidates - 4 hrs ago
New York Times President Faces Election Fight in Sri Lanka - 6 hrs ago
Financial TimesSri Lankans braced for election battle between two victors of civil war - 11 hrs ago
The Scotsman Politics divides the men who brought peace to Sri Lanka - 14 hrs ago
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