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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 15:10 GMT Astrology 'rigged' in Sri Lanka election
Astrologers get more attention than political analysts By the BBC's Frances Harrison in Colombo As Sri Lanka went to the polls on Wednesday to elect a new parliament many voters were keen to know what the astrologers were saying about the outcome.
It is not uncommon for politicians to consult the stars before fixing on any new venture. But this time allegations of corruption have rocked the astrology world with accusations that the planetary positions have been rigged. One fortune teller says the elections will throw up a hung parliament but eventually the opposition will form a government.
Coconut woman
She has deduced this from splitting a coconut and comparing the two halves of the shell. The pointy end, which is considered the male end, is compared with the rounded female end to contrast the chances of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her rival Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Another astrologer says he talks to the gods for intimations of the future. This is what his sources say about the outcome of the elections: "It's like a three horse race. The gods have told me that Ranil Wickremesinghe will win this election because he has a lot of educated people behind him. "I have looked at his horoscope and according to the planetary positions there might be some obstacles but he will overcome them."
So important are astrologers in Sri Lanka that their pronouncements are given more weight than those of political analysts and opinion polls on the nightly TV news.
Needless to say the state run TV channel is foretelling victory for the governing People's Alliance.
Birth chart
Sri Lanka's premier astrology magazine - Ira Handa or Sun and Moon - claims a circulation of half a million which is more than the national daily. Entering the politicians' date and time of birth in special computer programmes, the astrologers at Ira Handa magazine have calculated birth charts for the candidates and they have printed a list of which ones they think will be winners. They have even worked out a birth chart for the country as a whole using independence day as the date of birth. The magazine's editor says President Chandrika Kumaratunga's birth chart is especially powerful. He says the next government will be a combination of two colours - blue and red - which happen to be the party colours of the People's Alliance and the Marxists who are likely to form an alliance.
'Friendly' predictions
You would not know the magazine had been hit by an embarrassing scandal when an employee recently resigned in protest at what he alleged was the rigging of the planetary positions in return for favours from the government. Chief editor Priyantha Ratnayake strongly denies the accusations. "He was not the editor as he claimed. He was not an astrologer at all, he was just a paste up artist on contract. "Basically he was bought for money so he went and told all those things. But he was never an astrologer or editor." Mr Ratnayake says in fact the opposition offered him money to predict an election victory for them. But even though money politics seems to be threatening Sri Lanka's astrological community their credibility seems untarnished among those who routinely consult the stars for guidance.

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