New Delhi: Voting began on Saturday to elect provincial governments in the Northern, Central and North Western Provinces of Sri Lanka. The Northern Province is voting to elect a provincial government for the first time in 25 years. The government has made heavy security arrangements in the Northern Province.
Election for the administration in the Northern Province, which was under the control of the separatist LTTE until its decimation in May 2009, is being held for the first time since the establishment of the provincial council system in 1987. CV Wigneswaran, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, is the main Tamil party Tamil National Alliance's (TNA) chief ministerial candidate in the Northern Province.
According to reports from Jaffna, the capital of Northern province, the voting began at 7 am at 832 polling stations in the five districts - Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Mannar - of the Province for 7,19,477 registered voters.
Two teams of foreign observers are monitoring the polls in the north along with close to 2,000 local election monitors from the People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) and Center for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV). Over 900 candidates from 57 political parties and 28 independent groups are contesting for the 38 seats in the Council.
The main contest is between the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and the main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). According to analysts in Colombo and New Delhi, the historic vote is seen as a test to decide whether the predominantly Tamil province wants more opportunities to improve the lives and the region or the people want more autonomy. The ruling party is expected to win the other two provincial councils that are also voting on Saturday while the TNA is expected to win the Northern Province.
Voting will end at 4 pm. The counting of ballots will begin at 7 PM at 82 centers in three provinces. The first result is expected by 10 PM on Saturday. All the results are expected to be declared by Sunday morning.