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Sri Lankan election: Rajapaksas hope to expand power

Colombo: Pandemic-hit Sri Lanka began voting in the twice-postponed election to elect a 225-member Parliament for a 5-year term on August 5.

More than 16 million Sri Lankans are eligible to go to the polls which opened at 7am local time with Parliament’s 196 directly elected seats in 22 multi-member districts up for grabs.

Twenty-nine others will be named from a national list according to the number of votes received by each party.

Election Commission Chair Mahinda Deshapriya was one of the early voters as polling got underway.

The 12,985 polling stations throughout the country are being manned by over 8,000 health officials, Director General of Health Services Anil Jasinghe said.

Some 20 political parties and 34 independent groups are in the fray with over 7,200 candidates from 22 electoral districts.

The election is expected to be a victory for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP) led by his brother — Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The president is not a candidate while Mahinda is running from the north western capital district of Kurunegala.

Mahinda Rajapaksa is also the SLPP’s prime ministerial candidate. He took over as caretaker prime minister in November, after Ranil Wickremesinghe of the opposition United National Party (UNP) resigned from the post following his party’s humiliating defeat in the presidential election.

The counting would take place only on the following morning – a departure from the practice of counting the ballots from 8 PM on the election night.

President Gotabaya hopes for a two-thirds majority for the SLPP in the general election so that he can amend the Constitution to restore presidential powers curbed by a 2015 constitutional change.

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