COLOMBO, Nov 15 (AFP): Sri Lankan election staff began fanning out to the provinces ahead of Thursday's presidential vote as campaigning ended peacefully despite fears of rebel bombings, officials said.
Public servants who will staff the 10,000 polling booths were travelling to remote parts of the island torn by a decades-old ethnic conflict between the Sinhalese majority and the minority Tamils.
"Election staff are in the process of taking up their positions," spokesman Rasika Peiris said. "We are now in the final stages of our preparations for the election."
Campaigning ended at midnight Monday and no political meetings will be allowed until a week after the election. The government has also slapped a four-day ban on liquor sales.
Ruling party candidate Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse skipped his final campaign rally amid fears of suicide bombings, police officials said.
His main challenger, opposition leader and former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, ended his campaign in the capital amid unprecedented security, police said.
Wickremesinghe wore a bullet-proof jacket and addressed supporters at Colombo's Maradana area, where several suicide bombings have taken place in the past.
Wickremesinghe, accompanied by his wife Maithree, was whisked away by bodyguards soon after he ended his brief speech delivered from behind bullet-proof glass.
"I am the only candidate with a people's agenda to improve the economy and bring peace to the country," he told AFP before his speech. "My support around the country has been increasing."