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Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Thursday, 8 April 2010 14:33 UK

Sri Lanka's first post-war parliamentary polls close

A couple returns after casting vote in Sri Lanka
There have been concerns over breaches of electoral rules

Voting has ended in parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka - the first since government forces defeated Tamil Tiger rebels last year.

Monitoring groups report a low turnout of about 40%, especially in the Tamil-dominated northern and eastern areas, and some incidents of violence.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's party is expected to triumph over a split opposition. Results are due on Friday.

His main rival, Gen Sarath Fonseka, is also standing despite being in jail.

Gen Fonseka, the former army chief, denies charges of participating in politics while still in uniform and illegal arms procurement.

The main opposition coalition he presided over during the presidential campaign has since split up into three main camps.

One is a new political alliance led by Gen Fonseka. Also standing is Sri Lanka's main opposition party and the main ethnic Tamil alliance, which is expected to get most support in the north and east of the country.

But Mr Rajapaksa still enjoys much popularity because of last year's crushing defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels after a 26-year civil war.

He is seeking a two-thirds majority in parliament.

'Ballot stuffing'

SRI LANKA VOTES
First parliamentary election since war with Tamil Tigers ended
Over 7,000 candidates compete for 225 seats
President's coalition currently holds 128 seats
Now seeks two-thirds majority to allow it to change constitution

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says the vote went smoothly in many places.

But an independent body, the Centre for Monitoring Electoral Violence, told the BBC it received 300 complaints of misconduct - 80% of them were levelled against Mr Rajapaksa's coalition.

Near the central town of Kandy, it said pro-government activists chased away voting agents and stopped people voting in one area, and stormed into polling booths, stuffing the boxes with ballot papers.

In the south, two instances of shooting were reported quite close to polling stations, but there were no injuries.

The organisation believed turnout had been low, at around 40%.

Voting took place amid heavy security, with nearly 80,000 police and soldiers deployed to protect voting stations.

Planned reforms

The president says that after his election he will clarify his ideas for any political reforms to tackle Sri Lanka's ethnic problem.

If he achieves his aim of a two-thirds majority in parliament - or 150 seats, analysts say that would allow him to change the constitution.

Mr Rajapaksa has spoken of adding a second chamber of parliament to accommodate minorities better - but he has ruled out the federalism many Tamil politicians want.

Many people predict he would also try to scrap the current limit of two presidential terms.

History suggests his coalition is unlikely to get two-thirds of the seats.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Yahoo! UK and Ireland S.Lanka ruling party wins parliamentary election - 1 hr ago
Guardian.co.uk Sri Lanka votes peacefully in postwar elections - 12 hrs ago
Los Angeles Times Sri Lankans vote in parliamentary elections - 15 hrs ago
Times Online Fears of Rajapaksa dynasty as Sri Lanka votes - 19 hrs ago
Financial TimesSri Lanka holds first postwar parliament poll - 27 hrs ago
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