New Delhi: The voting for a new Sri Lankan president began on Saturday at 7:00 AM local time (01:30 GMT) in Sri Lanka amid religious tensions and increasing political polarisation.

As many as 15.9 million eligible voters will decide the future of the country that is still struggling with security issues after the Easter Sunday bombings, stated a report. It must be noted that Maithripala Sirisena who was elected as Sri Lanka’s President in the year 2015 is not seeking re-election this time.

Out of 35 candidates who are contesting in the elections, the top contenders include the 70-year-old former wartime defence secretary and Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the 52-year-old candidate from the ruling New Democratic Front (NDF) party Sajith Premadasa. Notably, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the brother of two-time former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. Yet another strong candidate who is contesting in the polls is Anura Kumara Dissanayake from the National People’s Power (NPP) coalition.

More than 12,000 voting centres were set up across the country for the Presidential election. In spite of elaborate security cover in the island nation, an unidentified group hurled stones and opened fire on two buses carrying Muslim voters in Mannar, according to Sri Lanka media reports. So far, there are no injuries or arrests made in view of the violence, added news agency ANI quoting the local media.

Meanwhile, police on Friday said that at least 90 people were arrested in Sri Lanka for committing crimes linked to the presidential election. Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara was quoted by news agency IANS as saying, “Security has been beefed up to the maximum and we urge all citizens and political parties to maintain calm so that polls can be free and fair.” This includes the deployment of over 60,000 police officers to take action against those who commit crimes or violate the law, added Gunasekara.