Sri Lanka parliamentary election expected to back Rajapaksas

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankans voted Wednesday to elect a new Parliament that is expected to give strong support to the powerful and popular Rajapaksa brothers.

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected last November after projecting himself as the only leader who could secure the country after the Islamic State-inspired bombings of churches and hotels on Easter Sunday that killed 269 people.

His older brother, charismatic former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is seeking a majority of the 225 seats in Parliament to return as prime minister.

At least four members of the family were running in the parliamentary election, and strong support for the Rajapaksas' party could add to their political dynasty.

Police spokesman Priyantha Weerasuriya said the voting, which ended at 5 p.m., was largely peaceful and that police officers were escorting the ballot boxes to the counting centers.

Counting starts Thursday and the final results are expected Friday.

More than 16 million people were eligible to vote to elect 196 lawmakers, with the rest being named from a national list according to the number of votes received by each party or independent group.

The election was originally scheduled for April but was twice postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sri Lanka has largely contained the spread of the virus with 2,834 confirmed cases including 11 deaths.

Health measures were put in place at polling booths with social distancing. Voters were asked to bring their own pens to mark their ballots, or use disinfected pens provided at voting stations.