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Sri Lanka Congratulated for Successful Presidential Election

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The United States and India are congratulating Sri Lanka for carrying out a successful presidential election this week.  But there are also calls from the international community for the South Asian island nation to investigate the opposition's claim of vote-rigging and other election violations.

The U.S. Embassy in Colombo issued a statement congratulating Sri Lanka for a mostly peaceful election with high voter turnout.

Sri Lanka's neighbor just across the Palk Strait, India, is pledging to deepen the relationship with Colombo during the second term of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The losing opposition coalition candidate, former General Sarath Fonseka, is demanding that the official results be annulled, claiming rampant illegal use of state resources during the campaign and a rigged vote counting.

Rukshana Nanayakkara, Deputy Exec. Dir., Transparency Internatinal Sri Lanka
Rukshana Nanayakkara, Deputy Exec. Dir., Transparency Internatinal Sri Lanka

The deputy executive director in Sri Lanka for the anti-corruption organization Transparency International is expressing concern about the use of government officials, media, and public transport on behalf of the president's re-election campaign.  But Rukshana Nanayakkara tells VOA News the former army commander needs to produce something beyond speculation to support his allegations there was tampering with the vote-counting process.

"Right now, we have no evidence whatsoever to prove what he has said other than the rumors, which are spreading around the country," he said.

Thousands of domestic monitors observed balloting throughout the country Tuesday, reporting the election was considerably less violent than previous years.

There were only a handful of accredited foreign observers, with major international observer groups saying they did not have adequate notification to prepare for the Sri Lanka election. 

Ichal Supriadi, Mission Director, Asian Network for Free Elections
Ichal Supriadi, Mission Director, Asian Network for Free Elections

The mission director of the Asian Network for Free Elections, Ichal Supriadi, speaking to VOA, suggests the government should agree to recount disputed ballots to settle any doubts about the president's nearly 18 percent margin of victory.  

"The best we can say right now about Sri Lanka is that the election, yes, was really smooth, but needs real reform of the electoral process," said Supriadi.

A general election to elect a new parliament is expected to be held in several months.

Mr. Fonseka has spoken of continuing his quest for political office, while also noting he might have to temporarily seek exile for his personal safety.  The day after the election, the former military chief accused Mr. Rajapaksa of wanting to see him assassinated.

The United States government is urging Sri Lankan authorities to ensure the safety and security of all candidates and campaign workers amid fears some are targets for arrest or retaliation.

The incumbent captured about 70 percent of the majority Sinhalese vote.  The top challenger, who is also Sinhalese, enjoyed strong support among minority Tamils.  Both of the candidates were touted as war heroes for last year's defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, ending a quarter century civil war.

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