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Sri Lanka counts votes from parliament election

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka on Thursday began counting votes for a parliament election which President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s party is widely expected to win, cementing his grip on power.

Close to 70% of eligible Sri Lankans voted in Wednesday’s election to the 225-member parliament, shrugging off fears of coronavirus.

Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya said counting had started at 9 a.m. local time (0330 GMT) and the first results were expected late afternoon with the final tally coming in around midnight.

Rajapaksa is hoping to install his older brother who is also a former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, as prime minister. The brothers are best known for crushing Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils during the elder Rajapaksa’s presidency in 2009.

President Rajapaksa said he was pleased by the voting on Wednesday. “As the first South Asian country to hold general elections amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it reflects the confidence that the people have in our efforts to control this pandemic,” he said.”

The tourism-dependent island nation of 21 million people has been struggling since deadly Islamist militant attacks on hotels and churches last year followed by lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Kim Coghill)

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