More than 13 million people are eligible to vote at today`s Presidential polls to elect Sri Lanka`s fifth Executive President into office.
These voters will cast their ballots for the presidential candidate of their choice at 10,486 polling booths in the country in 22 electoral districts. Voting will begin at 7 a.m. and conclude at 4 p.m. after which ballot boxes will be transported under tight security to 713 counting centres around the country. Ninety seven of these centres will be devoted to counting postal votes cast on November 8.
Thirteen candidates are contesting today`s election, all of them representing a political party. The two main contenders are the UPFA`s Mahinda Rajapakse and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. Voters will be required to mark the number `1` or an X against the name of the candidate of their choice while they can also mark a second and third choice by marking the number `2` and `3` against the name of the respective candidate. 170,000 public servants are deployed for duty at polling stations islandwide.
Several foreign monitoring bodies have already arrived in the island to observe today`s poll, including a European Union Mission and a team from the Commonwealth Secretariat. The main local observer PAFFREL and the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) will also deploy thousands of monitors to observe voting around the country today. PAFFREL has over 19,000 monitors including 108 foreign observers from 30 countries, while CMEV will deploy 4761. Both local monitors have also arranged for mobile monitoring teams to patrol the roads and the vicinity of polling stations and report incidents if any.
All monitoring bodies have voiced concern that the voter turn out in the North and East will be low because of the LTTE`s indifferent stance on this election. Meanwhile, a hartal has been called in Jaffna today to protest the election. However, the LTTE has maintained that it will not deter people from casting their ballot in cluster polling booths set up in government areas.
The respective District Secretariats have arranged for buses to be deployed to transport people from uncleared areas in the North-East to the polling booths in government territory to enable them to cast their votes.