By Munza Mushtaq
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AA) – As Saturday’s polls have closed for the presidential vote in Sri Lanka, monitors called it one of the “most peaceful” elections in the country amid isolated incidents of violence.
Nearly 16 million people were eligible to cast votes in almost 12,850 polling centers. The Election Commission said that the average voter turnout was around 80%.
The Colombo-based Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) reported a total of 196 election-related violations during polling hours between 7 a.m.-5 p.m. (0130-1130GMT).
Among them were 67 cases of illegal campaigning, 58 reports of intimidation and influencing of voters and only three assaults.
Manjula Gajanayake, the national coordinator of CMEV said: “We can say this is one of the most peaceful elections we have experienced. Although there were violations, there were very few incidents of violence reported,” he told Anadolu Agency.
In one major incident of violence, an unidentified group pelted stones and opened gunfire on several busses carrying minority Muslim voters in the morning as they were making their way to cast their ballots.
The incident happened in the village of Tantirimale, nearly 240 kilometers (149 miles) from Colombo. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera confirmed to Anadolu Agency that there were no casualties from the incident.
"This is the first time a presidential election was held without any serious violence," Mahinda Deshapriya, the chairman of the Election Commission, told reporters in Colombo.
However, he said several people were hospitalized in the town of Deraniyagala, some 87 km (54 mi) from Colombo, in an attack targeting the voters.
According to the latest update of the CMEV, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party of opposition candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa reportedly committed the majority of election violations, with 130 incidents, while ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa's New Democratic Front had committed 45 election-related violations.
Meanwhile, Rohana Hettiarachchi, the executive director of Peoples Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL), told Anadolu Agency that majority of the election violations were in relation to attempting to influence voters.
The final result of the presidential election is expected to be announced by Sunday.