Jaffna, Jan 8: Sri Lankan Tamils turned out in large numbers on Thursday to cast their ballots in the crucial presidential election, defying what the opposition alleged as attempts to discourage polling in the heavily militarised Jaffna peninsula.[Rajapaksa confident of winning the election]
Incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa has a low popularity in this region where decades-long civil war ended with the defeat of the LTTE in 2009. A blast was heard as voting began in the northern region and Sri Lankan Tamils felt it was an attempt to discourage the people from turning out to vote.
Rajapaksa is unpopular in the Tamil-dominated Jaffna for his role in the military campaign against the LTTE separatists in which thousands of civilians were killed.
Tamils make up the biggest minority in Sri Lanka by accounting 13 per cent of the country's 15 million voters and could play a decisive role if the majority Sinhalese votes get split between Rajapaksa and his challengers. The main Tamil outfit, the Tamil National Alliance, has decided to support opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena, the former party collague of Rajkapaksa.
The Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE), a private group monitoring the polls said the voter turnout was exceptionally high in most parts of the country, including the former war zones, an AFP report said.
"We are seeing heightened enthusiasm among minorities," CaFFE chief Keerthi Thennakoon told the AFP.
The LTTE ran Jaffna as a de facto state for nearly five years till 1995 and the area has been heavily militarised since the war concluded in 2009.