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Last updated: 10 May, 2008 - Published 12:31 GMT
 
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Polling ends with rigging allegations
 
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Election Department says according to reports received at the close of the poll, the estimated voter turnout was approximately 65% ,55%,60% in Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee respectively.

There have been widespread reports of irregularities during provincial elections in eastern Sri Lanka that are seen as crucial to the government's strategy for defeating Tamil Tiger rebels.

An independent monitoring group said it had received forty complaints -- mainly of voter intimidation -- but there were also reports of ballot-stuffing, multiple voting and threats forcing observers to leave polling stations.

The leader of the main opposition alliance, Rauff Hakeem, said police had ignored their complaints.

All through the day people voted in eastern Sri Lanka, including in areas that were held by the Tamil Tigers until a military operation to drive them out ended in July.

Rauff Hakeem, who hopes to become Chief Minister if his opposition alliance wins, said there was widespread intimidation, violence and harassment of voters, and police ignored their complaints.

Key test

This election is a key test of the Government's strategy in its long running war against the Tamil Tigers.

They bill limited devolution to the provinces as the answer to the Tamil people's long standing demands for more autonomy.

They hope it will negate the Tamil Tigers' fight for a separate state which is still going on in the north. Among the candidates running for office were former rebels who defected in 2004.

The TMVP hasn't given up its guns and has been accused of killings, abductions and of recruiting children for military training.

It took part in the elections under the banner of President Mahinda Rajapaksa's ruling UPFA.

 
 
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