Sri Lanka is set for a crucial provincial election in two of its nine provinces where the government is to test its support for the military campaign against Tamil rebels in the northern part of the country, reported dpa.
Some 2.1 million voters will vote in the North-Central province, 180 kilometres north-east of the capital, and in Sabaragamuwa province, 100 kilometres south-east of the Colombo.
The ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the main opposition United National Party (UNP) led by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are the main contenders in the election which is being held at least six months ahead of schedule.
Rajapakse called for the elections to elect members of two councils that handle development in the two provinces.
In his campaigning, Rajapaksa has said that a vote for the ruling party would be considered an endorsement of the ongoing military campaign against the rebels.
The main opposition in turn has criticized the UPFA for using military achievements during the campaign.
All senior government ministers have been calling on voters to vote in favour of the ruling party and promised to go ahead with the strong military campaign against the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
"Vote for the UPFA and encourage the soldiers marching forward, or vote for the UNP and hand over the country back to the terrorists," Transport Minister Dullas Alahapperuma said in reference to the rebels.
Government forces on Friday claimed to have captured another stronghold town of the rebels in the north as ministers predict recapturing all rebel held areas before the end of the year.
The UNP is concentrating on issues of under development in the provinces, high cost of living and unemployment.
In the run-up to the poll at least 265 incidents of assault, shooting, arson and cases of intimidation have been reported.
Over the last two days there has been a series of reports of houses and party offices being attacked and shooting incidents have been reported, prompting the government to deploy the army for security.
The voting commences on Saturday at 7 am (0130 GMT) and ends at 4 pm (1030 GMT) with the results expected early Sunday morning.