Sri Lankans head to the polls to elect a new parliament, in what amounts to a referendum on ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa's comeback bid. Rough cut (no reporter narration).
Sri Lankans began voting to elect a new parliament on Monday (August 17). The election is seen as a referendum on ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa's comeback bid. The nationalist strongman had set his sights on becoming premier of a government led by his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). But President Maithripala Sirisena, the former ally who beat him at the polls in January, now leads the party and rules that out. The tangled personal rivalry has overshadowed campaigning on the Indian Ocean island of 20 million people, which has a history of political feuding that has often spilled over into violence and even the assassination of its leaders. At the University College polling station, a stream of early voters came in to exercise their choice. "I think it is important to vote because every vote makes a difference," said Anne Kannagara, one of the early voters. Sister Rita, an elderly nun, said the nation had seen enough pain in the past and now was the time for unity and reconciliation. "The key is reconciliation, reconciliation. And then our poor have to be looked after and the good of the whole nation has to be seen," she said. Rajapaksa, 69, is revered as a war hero by many of Sri Lanka's Sinhala speaking Buddhist majority for crushing a 26-year Tamil uprising in 2009. Opponents accuse him of running a corrupt, brutal and dynastic regime - charges he denies.