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Sri Lanka votes peacefully to elect president

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Sri Lanka votes peacefully to elect president
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Colombo: Hundreds of thousands voted across Sri Lanka Thursday in presidential elections in which incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa is being challenged by opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena.

Barring a grenade attack in the northern Tamil town of Point Pedro that apparently wounded none, the electoral battle was peaceful, media reports said.

Rajapaksa is fighting for an unprecedented third term. His former health minister Sirisena is the candidate fielded by the New Democratic Front (NDF), a grouping of virtually all opposition parties.

More than 14.5 million people are eligible to vote. The results will be known Friday.

Election monitors and officials reported the grenade attack in Point Pedro in Jaffna peninsula. The explosion spread fear among voters but did not cause any casualties, Xinhua reported.

The election monitoring group, Campaign for Free and Fair Election (CaFFE), said the grenade attack took place 800 metres away from a polling booth.

CaFFE executive director Keerthi Tennakoon said people going to vote fled after the blast but voting later continued at the location.

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) reported brisk voting in the Sinhalese-dominated southern parts of the country. In the mainly Tamil north, the voter turnout was low in the first few hours.

CMEV said among the incidents reported to them was one over the pens used to mark the ballot papers.

Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya had said that only pens issued by his department should be used to mark the votes.

The CMEV said that some voters found that pencils were issued at some polling booths and not pens for the voters.

Besides Rajapaksa and Sirisena, 17 others from minor political parties or independents are also in the fray.

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