Sri Lanka's local polls end peacefully with over 70 pct voter turnout

Source: Xinhua| 2018-02-10 21:51:21|Editor: Chengcheng
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COLOMBO, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- A crucial local government election ended peacefully in Sri Lanka on Saturday as over 15 million voters cast their ballots to elect members to local government bodies, election monitors said.

Voting started at 7:00 a.m. local time and ended at 4:00 p.m. local time.

Election monitors said 15,760,867 voters, or some 70 percent of the total eligible voters, cast their votes throughout the country.

President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Mahinda Rajapakse were among those who voted early on Saturday.

A total of 39 people were arrested during the voting for violating election laws, police said, adding there were no election related deaths or major election violence reported.

Police said those arrested, including eight candidates, conducted minor violations such as pasting election related posters, taking photographs of ballot papers and political party members transporting voters to polling stations.

"It has been one of the most peaceful elections we have had on record," said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director for the Center for Policy Alternatives.

Voting for the local government elections is the first conducted by the newly-established independent Election Commission as well as the police under the Independent Police Commission.

It is also the first island-wide poll to be held since the coalition government of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe took office in August 2015. The poll is considered an important test of the government's reform agenda.

The government said 65,758 police officers, 41,178 Special Task Force officers and 7,278 other officers were deployed for the elections.

The local councils are the third tier of governance in Sri Lanka after the Parliament and the Provincial Councils, and are primarily responsible for local affairs such as the development of village access roads, garbage collection, and maintenance of basic local infrastructure.