COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Worries about Islamic extremism are paramount for many Sri Lankan voters while others hope to block former leaders accused of human rights violations from returning to power in Saturday’s presidential election.
The polls are the country’s first since Easter’s deadly suicide attacks that killed 269 people.
With a record 35 candidates vying for the presidency, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former defense official under his brother, ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was widely expected to triumph over ruling party Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa. But as the election approached, the race became very close.
Many in Sri Lanka’s ethnic Sinhalese Buddhist majority favor Gotabaya because of his role in the Rajapaksa government’s decisive victory a decade ago over ethnic Tamil rebels, ending the secessionist civil war. But some minority Tamils and Muslims fear his reputation.