Sri Lankans voting in election which could cement power of Rajapaksa brothers

Sri Lankans were voting on Wednesday to elect a new parliament that is expected to give strong support to the powerful and popular Rajapaksa brothers.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected last November after projecting himself as the only leader who could secure the country after the Islamic State-inspired bombings of churches and hotels on Easter Sunday that killed 269 people.

His older brother, charismatic former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, is seeking a majority of the 225 seats in Parliament to return as prime minister.

At least four members of the family are running in the parliamentary election, and strong support for the Rajapaksas’ party could add to their political dynasty.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa waves as he leaves after casting his vote (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)</figcaption>
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa waves as he leaves after casting his vote (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

More than 16 million people are eligible to vote to elect 196 politicians, with the rest being named from a national list according to the number of votes received by each party or independent group.

The election was originally scheduled for April but was twice postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sri Lanka has largely contained the spread of the virus with 2,834 confirmed cases including 11 deaths.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Sri Lankan prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, third right, his wife Shiranthi, second right, and family members arrive to cast their votes (Pradeep Pathirana/AP)</figcaption>
Sri Lankan prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, third right, his wife Shiranthi, second right, and family members arrive to cast their votes (Pradeep Pathirana/AP)

Health measures were put in place at polling booths with social distancing. Voters were asked to bring their own pens to mark their ballots, or use disinfected pens provided at voting stations.

Voting ends in the evening.

Counting starts on Thursday and the final results are expected on Friday.

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