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* Sri Lanka's war-torn North gears up to restore democracy after lapse of three decades
Sun, Jul 17, 2011, 10:12 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

July 17, Jaffna: Sri Lanka's Northern Province is preparing to restore democracy in the war-torn land when local government elections are held next Saturday, July 23, after a lapse of three decades, to elect members for 23 local bodies.

Elections will be held for 16 Pradeshiya Sabhas and three Urban Councils in the Jaffna district, three Pradeshiya Sabhas in the Kilinochchi district and one Pradeshiya Sabha in the Mullaitivu district.

Elections for two Pradeshiya Sabhas in the uncleared areas of the Mullaitivu, Puthukudiyiruppu and Maritime Pattu, have been postponed due to the delay in demining process.

All major political parties, ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UFPA), major opposition party United National Party (UNP) and major Tamil party Tamil national Alliance (TNA) are contesting for all local bodies.

According to Jaffna Government Agent Mrs. Imelda Sukumar all arrangements are in place for over 43,000 voters to cast their ballots on Saturday. The government agent has said that measures have been taken and security has been tightened to ensure free and fair election.

The Commissioner of Elections has sent a three-member team of election officials from Colombo to the North to meet government officials, election officers and representatives of political parties to ensure that all election laws are observed.

The ruling UPFA and the Tamil party TNA are both conducting aggressive election campaigns in the North where the government has poured in billions of dollars for the post-war development.

Political analysts in the country say that voters are divided between the ruling party, which provides the much needed economic development in the region to uplift the livelihoods and living conditions, and the TNA, which is fighting to ensure the freedom and rights of the Tamil community.

In addition to the polls in the North the Sri Lankan voters will be casting their ballots elsewhere in the country to elect members for 42 local bodies.

According to the Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya, 5,688 candidates are contesting for 875 slots in 65 local bodies. A total of 2,630,985 voters are eligible to cast their votes at 2,226 polling booths.

Sri Lanka held elections for 234 of the 335 local authorities in the country on March 17 this year. Elections for 34 localities were not held due to the hosting of Cricket World Cup and elections for another 67 councils were postponed due to legal challenges against rejection of nominations.

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