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Low turnout in eastern Sri Lanka local poll
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14:45, March 10, 2008

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Polls opened in Sri Lanka's Eastern province with local elections here Monday morning marked by a very low voter turnout.

Election monitors said that after one hour since the poll started at 7 a.m. local time (0130 GMT) only a very small number of voters had turned up at the polling stations.

However they expected brisk voting during the afternoon hours.

No major incidents of violence had been reported except one incident of grenade throwing at Valaichchenai area Sunday night.

A policeman was injured at the house of a Sri Lanka Muslim Congress candidate in the grenade throwing incident.

Polls are being held for nine local councils in the Batticaloa district to appoint 101 councilors. The voting will close at 4 p.m. local time (1030 GMT).

The election is the first to be held in the province since the government in mid-July last year claimed that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had been fully evicted from the province.

Six political parties and 22 independent groups are fielding 831 candidates. Officials say 270,471 voters are eligible to vote at 285 polling stations.

The main opposition United National Party and the main Tamil minority party, the Tamil National Alliance are not taking part in the election alleging that as an armed political party, the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal, is intimidating the voters, there would not be a free and fair election.

The government says that Monday's election was only the first step in the process of restoring democracy in the Eastern Province and it hopes to conduct an election for the Eastern Provincial Council later in the year.

Source:Xinhua



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