- Title: SRI LANKA: Campaigning ends in presidential election
- Date: 24th January 2010
- Summary: POLITICIANS ON STAGE GENERAL FONSEKA WAVING AT CROWD
- Embargoed: 8th February 2010 12:00
- Location: Sri Lanka
- Country: Sri Lanka
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVALCNQWUD4EQUZX2G0LJ6XRN4M
- Story Text: Campaigning ended on Saturday (January 23) in the run up to Sri Lanka's presidential elections, with the two main candidates holding final rallies.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the overwhelming favourite to win, called the election two years ahead of time to take advantage of his popularity after ending the 30 year Tamil separatist war. However Rajapaksa's popularity has diminished since the opposition put forward General Sarath Fonseka at the head of an alliance against the president.
The president's main campaign message highlighted his war-winning achievement and a promise to concentrate on developing the economy in his possible second six year term. The final rally was held in Kaduwela on the outskirts of the capital and was attended by thousands of supporters.
"All of us must forget all our difference and unite and get ready to get to work. We have good work programme and a vision to start work from the 27th itself," President Rajapaksa told cheering supporters.
"After winning on the 26th after a peaceful election, we must take steps to establish democracy not militarism in this country. Within that democracy we must unite. I am inviting those who are left with United National Party to join us to celebrate this huge victory," the president added.
General Fonseka, Sri Lanka's first serving four star army general, led the army to victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009. Fonseka's campaign is being supported by the right wing main opposition party, the United National Party, the left wing People's Liberation Front and a motley coalition of other political parties, backing him for the sole purpose of defeating Rajapaksa.
The president and his former army commander fell out, with Fonseka accusing Rajapaksa of unjustly sidelining him over unfounded coup fears.
General Fonseka held his final rally in Colombo, a stronghold of the opposition.
"This journey cannot be stopped by anybody. Our victory on January 26th is now certain. All that is need to be done is to make it official. The president has understood this. His catchers have understood this. What they are now trying to do is create fear by using thugs to stop the people from voting," General Fonseka told thousands of cheering supporters.
" I decided to enter politics to introduce a different political philosophy. What I rejected is the political philosophy that has not been able to develop this country," the former general added.
Pre-election violence has increased in the run up to election day. Election monitors have urged the two main presidential candidates to bring an end to violence so that voters could vote without fear of intimidation.
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