Sri Lankan election: in pictures

As a war-scarred nation heads to the polls, here are images from the turbulent run-up to the preside

Sri Lankans are voting in the country's first election since the Tamil Tigers were crushed. Above, a supporter at an election rally wears a swan mask. Swans are the election symbol of the former army commander and opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka.

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Supporters of the incumbent president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, attend another rally.

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An opposition activist, Tiran Alles, addresses the media from his house, damaged in a grenade attack that has been blamed on the ruling party.

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Buddhist monks pray at a "prayer of determination" ceremony.

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Sri Lankan cyclists pass an election poster in Vavuniya, north of Colombo. It is estimated that between 80,000 and 100,000 people died during the insurgency, which lasted nearly 40 years.

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Wreckage at the home of Tiran Alles, campaign manager for Sarath Fonseka.

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Rickshaws adorned with Fonseka's image.

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In Vavuniya a displaced ethnic Tamil, Sithambaram Ratnasingam, displays her passport after she was denied permission to vote today.

 

All photographs from AFP/Getty Images.

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Parliament debate could go ahead as petition to accept more asylum seekers reaches over 100,000 signatures

Parliament considers all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures for a debate.

A petition to allow more asylum seekers into the UK has reached over 100,000 signatures. This is the figure petitions require for parliament to consider a debate on the subject.

The petition was launched by Katie Whyte, and gained almost 70,000 backers overnight following the publication of photos on 2 September of a three-year-old Syrian boy who had drowned.

The petition reads:

There is a global refugee crisis. The UK is not offering proportional asylum in comparison with European counterparts. We can't allow refugees who have risked their lives to escape horrendous conflict and violence to be left living in dire, unsafe and inhumane conditions in Europe. We must help.

With an estimated 173,100 asylum applications, Germany was the largest recipient of new asylum claims in 2014. The USA was 2nd with 121,200 asylum applications, followed by Turkey (87,800), Sweden (75,100), and Italy (63,700). By comparison, the UK received 31,300 new applications for asylum by the end of 2014. 
(Source: UNHCR 2014 Asylum Trends Report)

David Cameron has so far refused to accept further refugees into Britain, in spite of calls from campaigners and Labour frontbenchers to at least discuss the issue in the Commons.

> Read the petition here.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.