Nearly 16 million voters are called to the polls, Saturday, November 16, in Sri Lanka to elect their president.

Nearly five years after the election defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa, her 70-year-old younger brother, Gotabaya, is competing with ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa to lead the Sri Lankan state in the next five-year period.

A few hours before the start of the vote, gunmen opened fire on a convoy of hundreds of buses carrying Muslim voters, without casualties. In the Tamil majority zone in the north of the country, an electorate unfavorable to the Rajapaksa, police reported to the electoral commission illegal checkpoints in the army that could prevent voters from going to vote. The police also arrested 10 men suspected of "trying to create trouble".

The Rajapaksa clan

Retired lieutenant-colonel, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is for this election the representative of the powerful Rajapaksa family. The former soldier was one of the keystones of the regime of his brother Mahinda (2005-2015), prevented by the current Constitution from appearing, and his election would mark the return to the affairs of the siblings.

As the highest-ranking defense minister at the time, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was in fact commanding Sri Lankan armies during the crushing of the Tamil separatist rebellion in 2009. Some 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the course of the war. this ultimate offensive, according to human rights defenders, who accuse the Rajapaksa of war crimes.

The bloodbath marked the end of 37 years of civil war, which left 100,000 dead, and is worth the Rajapaksa to be worshiped within the Sinhala ethnic majority, but hated and feared by the Tamil minority which constitutes 15% 21.6 million Sri Lankans.

The posture of a strong man adopted by Gotabaya, who promises to fight against corruption and Islamist extremism in a nation traumatized by the jihadist attacks of April 21, which left 269 dead, earned him the nickname "Terminator" within from his family.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is accused of denouncing, under the chairmanship of his brother, "death squads" who have taken on board white vans dozens of Tamils, political opponents or journalists. Some of their bodies were then thrown on the road, others were never found.

Rajapaksa's return to power is also preoccupying neighboring India and Westerners because of the clan's proximity to China. Beijing lent billions of dollars to Sri Lanka during Mahinda Rajapaksa's two mandates for major infrastructure projects, a colossal debt that places this strategic Indian Ocean country in a position of dependence on Beijing. .

In contrast, his main rival, 52-year-old Sajith Premadasa, who was the son of a guerrilla-killed president in 1993, is a discreet politician who hopes to mobilize women's votes by promising to improve menstrual hygiene.

The results of this poll should be known Sunday or Monday if the score is tight.

With AFP