Sri Lanka holds local elections in northern ex-war zone

Two men walk past local government election campaign posters in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, on Friday The northern former war zone is plastered with election posters - mostly for allies of the government

Voting has closed in local elections in parts of Sri Lanka, including much of the previously war-affected north.

There were disturbing breaches of electoral rules in one part of the north, and an election-related death elsewhere, monitoring groups said.

But the election commissioner said that overall the polling went well.

The government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has not been popular in the north and both it and the biggest Tamil party have much at stake in the vote.

New election commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya told the BBC he was very sad that a man had been killed in apparent violence within the governing party in central Sri Lanka.

But he said that in most other places, including the mainly Tamil north, the situation was overwhelmingly calm, with turnout a little higher than in last year's general elections.

'Disturbing'

The main violations in the north were reported from Kilinochchi, once the Tamil Tiger headquarters, and a place whose population has only recently returned home from displaced people's camps.

Civil society groups said thousands of voting cards had been confiscated and voters threatened with violence.

But Mr Deshapriya said that in response the authorities held a mobile loudspeaker campaign urging people to come out and vote even without cards.

The confiscations had been "well organised" and very disturbing, Rajith Tennakoon, of the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections, told the BBC.

He also said far too little transport had been provided for voters to get to polling stations. But he said that in other parts of the north - Jaffna and especially Mullaitivu, close to where the war's endgame took place - the situation was "really peaceful".

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