Sri Lanka on Saturday held the first elections in 11 years in two
northern Tamil-majority cities near the nation's former war zone.
violence was reported, but turnout for the municipal-council elections
was light in both Jaffna and Vavuniya. Election monitors and
government officials had differing estimates of how many ballots were
cast, but it was clear that turnout in many districts was well below 50
percent of eligible voters.
Independent media were barred from
entering the region to observe the vote - a move criticized by
international rights group Reporters Without Borders - and opposition
parties said campaign workers had to obtain special permission to enter
the two cities.
Government officials say the elections are
another step toward strengthening democracy in Sri Lanka, following 25
years of civil war between Tamil Tiger rebels and Sri Lanka's armed
forces - a conflict that killed more than 80,000 people.
Jaffna and Vavuniya are near territory once held by Tamil separatist
rebels, but the two cities are now encircled by government troops.
Lanka's civil war ended in May with the rebels' defeat, but brutal
fighting during the final weeks of the conflict caused hundreds of
thousands of civilians to flee their homes.
An election also was held in Uva province, south of the two Tamil-majority cities.
First results of the voting are expected Sunday.