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Sri Lankan president is set for easy victory, says survey

[Gulf Times, Sunday, 17 January 2010 09:57 No Comment]

[IANS] Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse seems set for an easy victory over his rival and former army chief Sarath Fonseka in the January 26 presidential poll, according to an opinion survey.

Viplav Communications Pvt. Ltd., which has earlier been strategic advisers to numerous Indian politicians and conducted election surveys in India, conducted the survey in Sri Lanka. The findings of the survey were made available to IANS in New Delhi.

The poll shows Rajapakse leading in all provinces other than the Tamil-dominated north and multi-racial east and enjoying a 12% lead over his opponent in the island as a whole.

According to the survey, Rajapakse holds a dominant lead among the majority Sinhalese population who account for 74% of Sri Lanka’s population. He also enjoys a narrow lead among the Muslim voters.

However, he trails behind Fonseka among the Tamils of the north and east, the war zone where the military crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May last year leaving thousands dead.

Among the Tamils of Indian origin living in the tea plantation areas, Rajapakse enjoys majority support.

The sample size for the January 6-13 survey was 10,225.

According to it, people have graded the president very high on the skills and experience needed to run the next government.

Fonseka’s inexperience as a political administrator coupled with a pro-Rajapakse environment in the country was the clinching factor, the survey said.

The president is expected to do very well in Sinhalese-dominated North Central, Southern and Sabargamuwa provinces.

Fonseka has a good support base in eastern and northern Provinces. He also has the support of Tamils in Colombo.

Rajapakse has a slight edge over Fonseka among Muslim voters. Muslims, who also speak Tamil in many areas, are the second largest minority in Sri Lanka after the Tamils, who are dominantly Hindus.

According to the survey, Sinhalese Christians – most Sinhalese are Buddhists – support mostly the president compared to Tamil Christians.

Fonseka also has more support in urban areas while Rajpakse wields clout in rural areas. More women were found to be supportive of the president.

The survey found that a majority of respondents expressed the fear that the Tamil ethnic problem had not been solved fully.

The credit for winning the war against the LTTE is largely credited to the president, who came to power in November 2005 with a pledge to end the Tamil separatist campaign.

He then scored a narrow win over his main rival, Ranil Wickremasinghe, who is now backing Fonseka. Fonseka was a personal choice of Rajapakse as the army chief but they two fell out after the war ended last year.

The role of Fonseka is appreciated by people, but more credit is given to the president due to his leadership qualities during the war, according to the survey findings.

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