All parties expressed confidence of winning today`s local polls, which has been marred by legal battles and unprecedented violence.
The main opposition UNP currently controlling the majority of local bodies said it hoped people would place their trust on the party and vote it to office.
?We are confident of winning the elections, but we are not light readers to exactly predict the outcome,? UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya told the Daily Mirror yesterday.
The UNP at a special meeting with President Rajapaksa at Temple Tress on the eve of the polls urged that it be held in a free and fair manner.
The ruling UPFA too sounded confident of a sweeping victory at today`s polls. Party Secretary and Minister Susil Premajayantha vowed to clinch what he called a ?landslide victory.? The Minister claimed the UNP would end up in the third position in more than ninety percent of local bodies.
Government main ally, the JVP going solo at today`s elections, said this would record its biggest victory in the party`s history. JVP Group Leader Wimal Weerawansa said this poll would decide the JVP`s position in the country`s political landscape.
JHU Leader Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thera also expressed confidence that voters would elect a considerable number of JHU representatives to each local council.
?The JHU believes in quality and not the quantity and even a small number of JHU representatives in each institution could make a big difference,? the Thera said.
All arrangements are now in place to hold the local government polls today to elect 3624 members to 266 local government bodies comprising 12 municipal councils, 34 urban councils and 220 pradeshiya sabhas, Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake said yesterday.
11,037,763 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise at 8829 polling centres countrywide, with 25,523 candidates contesting from political parties and independent groups.
The polling will take place from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Elections Commissioner requested people to cast their vote as early as possible.
He requested youth voters in particular to refrain from loitering around polling centres after casting their vote and to co-operate to conduct a free and fair election.
He has also made a special request to voters not to elect members who engage in election violence.
Mr. Dissanayake assured that eligible voters without a valid identity card would not be debarred from casting their vote at the election as a host of alternatives such as passports, driving licences and identity cards issued to farmers and fishermen would be acceptable.
Voters can also produce a photograph of themselves certified by the grama niladhari or the estate superintendent in the case of estate workers.
Voters without any of these documents can also exercise their franchise by placing their thumb impression on the polling card brought by them to the polling station.
The counting is expected to start at 8 p.m. today and the first result is expected to be released by 1 a.m. tomorrow.
The main parties in the fray are the UPFA, UNP, JVP and JHU while Tamil parties such as the TNA and the EPDP are contesting in the Trincomalee and Ampara districts.
The SLMC, another minority party, is also contesting on the UNP ticket for the local bodies in the east. It has fielded its candidates for the Matale Municipal Council as an independent group. Its nominations lists for the Puttalam Urban Council and Akmeemana Pradeshiya Sabha were rejected. The CWC and the Upcountry People`s Front (UPF) are contesting most local bodies in the hill country on the UPFA ticket.
Members to two Pradeshiya Sabhas in Trincomalee and Mullaitivu districts have been elected uncontested.
The elections to 22 local bodies including the Colombo, Gampaha and Galle Municipal Councils have been postponed due to pending court cases. The Elections Commissioner has also postponed the polls to the local bodies in the Jaffna, Mannar, Batticaloa, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Batticaloa districts.
(Additional reports by Gagani Weerakoon, Yohan Perera and Damitha Hemachandra)
Tough action against trouble makers
President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday directed the police and armed services personnel to take tough action against anybody who violates election laws irrespective of their political affiliations.
President Rajapaksa also urged the public to maintain law and order.
IGP Chandra Fernando said security has been beefed up to maintain law and order and warned tough action would be taken against trouble makers.