Chennai: Sri Lanka goes to polls on Thursday in what is widely believed to be the closest presidential race in decades. While President Mahinda Rajapaksa seeks an unprecedented third term. He faces off against his former colleague turned common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena.
More than five years after the war ended, Sri Lanka will go to polls to elect a new President. Considered a hero, by the country's majority Sinhala Buddhist community for crushing the LTTE. Mahinda Rajapaksa now seeks a record third term in office. Following allegations of corruption, authoritarianism and misrule, Rajapaksa called for elections, two years ahead of schedule. He is up against his former health minister Maithripala Sirisena who is backed by a broad coalition of opposition parties including Tamil groups.
Commenting on the dead heat election, N Sathiyamoorthy, Director of Observer Research Foundation (ORF) Chennai said "Today they have looked at the political aid of his, which means they need to cut into Rajapaksa's traditional vote share to win the election, That the opposition together used the Tamil parties, Muslim parties the UNP which is the Sinhala's party, it seems that they are convinced that they cannot make it. So it seems that it depends entirely on the kind of vote share that the Sirisena's the common opposition candidate is able to make!".
With both Rajapaksa and his rival belonging to the majority Sinhala community analysts say the deciding votes could well be in the hands of the minorities - the Tamils and the Muslims. While the TNA, a Tamil political grouping is backing Sirisena in the country's Tamil dominated Northern Province. Muslim parties have also defected from Rajapaksa's side and joined the opposition camp following attacks by hardline Buddhist groups last year.
To this N Sathiyamoorthy said "the entire thing now rest as far as Tamil votes is concerned on the number of votes that TNA can bring in for Sirisena. They have been committed. Will they be able to repeat 2013! That is a question (patch) unless TNA is able to create a kind of performance that it did last time in the northern provisional council election. It wouldn't make a huge dent on the result or in the political atmosphere in the north also!".
Sri Lanka's Presidential election is being closely watched across the Palk Strait by political groups in Tamil Nadu. While parties like the DMK have consistently hit out against Rajapaksa for alleged war crimes committed by the Lankan army during the civil war...they are also wary of his rival's intentions.
TKS Elangovan, DMK spokesperson said "he was working with Rajapaksa earlier. He was a minister in Rajapaksa's cabinet for quite a long time . So his mindset will also be same as Rajapaksa only. There won't be any change. May be his supporters if they put enough pressure he may change .If he is elected. First he should get elected. After election his supporters should pressurize him to treat Tamils on a par and to give more right to the provincial government".
Neither Rajapaksa nor Sirisena's manifestos pay much attention to Tamil issues and with Sirisena declaring that he would not withdraw troops from Sri Lanka's militarised north. Pro-Tamil activists like Thirumurugan believe not much will change on the ground for Lankan Tamils.
He said "both of them have Sinhala chauvinism psychology, both of them didn't talk about the welfare and political rights of Tamils and both of them come from same stream of Hindutuva chauvinism, so both of them have same policies of economical and political perspective. So this is not a kind of election where Tamils are given importance or concerned".
More than 65,000 officers have been deployed across the country to guard booths and counting centres amid concerns of poll-related violence and harassment of voters as Sri Lanka braces for its most closely fought presidential election in decades.