COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Polls have opened in Sri Lanka’s presidential election after weeks of campaigning that largely focused on national security and religious extremism in the backdrop of the deadly Islamic State-inspired suicide bomb attacks on Easter Sunday.
Nearly 16 million of the island nation’s 22 million people are eligible to vote Saturday and choose a new president from a record 35 candidates.
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 has become very close.
The Rajapaksa brothers are revered by Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority for defeating the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 after nearly 30 years of civil war. Some minorities fear their return.