Sri Lanka counts votes from parliament election

COLOMBO, Aug. 11, 2019 (Xinhua) — Photo taken on Aug. 11, 2019 shows Sri Lanka’s opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa (L) and his brother, former defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at a Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party conference held in Colombo, capital of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday named his brother and former defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the opposition’s presidential candidate in a presidential race which will be held later this year. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said recently that the Presidential Elections is likely to be held in November or December. (Photo by Ajith Perera/Xinhua/IANS)

COLOMBO (RAHNUMA): Sri Lanka on Thursday began counting votes for a parliament election which President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s party is widely expected to win, cementing his grip on power.

Close to 70 percent of eligible Sri Lankans voted in Wednesday’s election to the 225-member parliament, shrugging off fears of coronavirus.

Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya said counting had started at 9 a.m. local time (0330 GMT) and the first results were expected late afternoon with the final tally coming in around midnight.

Rajapaksa is hoping to install his older brother who is also a former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, as prime minister. The brothers are best known for crushing Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils during the elder Rajapaksa’s presidency in 2009.

President Rajapaksa said he was pleased by the voting on Wednesday. “As the first South Asian country to hold general elections amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it reflects the confidence that the people have in our efforts to control this pandemic,” he said.”

The tourism-dependent island nation of 21 million people has been struggling since deadly militant attacks on hotels and churches last year followed by lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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