Sri Lanka
People celebrate after the voting ended during the presidential election day in Colombo, Sri Lanka November 16, 2019. Image Credit: Reuters

Colombo: Voting in Sri Lankan Presidential election concluded on Saturday.

Except for a few incidents of violence, the voting went peacefully. Early in the morning, gunmen opened fire on a convoy of buses carrying voters in Mannar. No casualties were reported in the incident.

Polling started at 7 am amid tight security. Over 68,000 security personnel were deployed to ensure a free and fair poll.

The counting of votes has begun and results are expected by Sunday.

Thirty-five candidates are contesting from across the political spectrum. This time, neither the sitting President nor Prime Minister is contesting the election.

The candidate who obtains over 50 per cent of valid votes will win the presidency, else the second preference votes have to be counted.

The ballot allowed voters to choose their three top candidates in order of preference, which will determine the winner if no candidate secures over half the first-place votes.

Second and third preferences from ballots whose first preference candidate has been eliminated are used to determine the winner.

Two prominent candidates are seen as the likeliest to replace Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena -- former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Minister of Housing Sajith Premadasa.

Both candidates have campaigned mainly on the plank of national security and good governance. But minorities are concerned a Rajapaksa win could be a step backward.

Rajapaksa, a former Defense Secretary, crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after nearly three decades of civil war.

Sajith Premadasa, 52, is the son of assassinated President Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was killed in a suicide bombing in 1993 carried out by the LTTE.

Premadasa, representing the ruling party, has built his campaign on promising a mixture of continuity and new leadership.

The six-week campaign in a neck-and-neck race has seen tensions mount across Sri Lanka, with the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) documenting at least 743 electoral violations including at least 45 cases of assaults or threats.

The alleged violations are split relatively equally between the two leading parties, Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka People's Front (SLPP) and Premadasa's UNP, Al Jazeera quoted the CMEV data as showing.

Sirisena's term was also marred by a failed attempt to remove Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe from the office, which sparked a constitutional crisis that even when resolved by the Supreme Court -- which restored Wickremesinghe to his position -- left a government essentially cleaved in two, CNN reported.

Under the Sri Lankan system, the Prime Minister is appointed by the President from members of Parliament, who nominate the most suitable.

CMEV said at the invitation of local election monitors, 153 foreign election observers have arrived in the country to monitor the presidential election.

According to the CMEV, 45 observers representing the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), 88 observers from the European Union Election Observation Mission and 20 observers representing the Commonwealth are in the country to observe the election.