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Ruling coalition poised for victory in Sri Lanka

[Hindu, Friday, 9 April 2010 08:50 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s ruling combine-United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA)-led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa appears poised for a comfortable majority in the 225 member Parliament for which election was held on Thursday.

Low voter turnout and sporadic incidents of violence marked the election. Despite the presence of over 7,000 candidates in the electoral field, the six week campaign in the run-up to the election did not evoke much enthusiasm among the voters.

As per a decision of the Election Commission the exact voting figures would be known only after all the results are officially announced. The independent election monitors have estimated the voter turn-out between 50 to 55 per cent and the polling in the war-ravaged Northern Province appears to be very low.

The high pitched presidential election in the fourth week of January, which saw a voter turn out of nearly 75 per cent, had given a general perception that the combine headed by the President would fare well in the parliamentary election after Mr. Rajapaksa’s massive win in the Presidential poll.

Despite the apparent lack of interest of the people, the latest general election and its outcome is of enormous significance as it is the first one since the LTTE was decimated militarily and its leader Velupillai Prabakaran killed in May last year after a protracted war between the security forces and the Tigers.

Political and diplomatic observers are of the view that with the military defeat of the LTTE, the President and the new Parliament have an opportunity to move towards forging a consensus on a political solution to the ethnic problem acceptable to all stakeholders in the island nation.

The President, during the campaigning, had repeatedly sought a mandate for a `strong Parliament’ to enable his Government to go ahead with the necessary changes in the Constitution to evolve a political solution to redress the legitimate grievances of minorities in general and the Tamils in particular.

Since a two-thirds majority for the ruling combine is now ruled out, the President would have to reach out to the opposition and the Tamil parties if he has to muster the required numbers to see through the Constitutional amendments for implementation of a political solution. One would have to wait and watch if and how Mr. Rajapaksa intends to enlist the cooperation of the United National Party (UNP) and parties like the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

A cursory look at the results of some of the districts available so far suggests that the ruling combine has gained mainly at the expense of the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) and other smaller parties. The main opposition party UNP has more or less managed to retain its vote base.

General (retd.) Fonseka, under military custody facing court martial on various charges, is leading the third front of which the JVP is a leading constituent. He is a candidate of the alliance from Colombo district.

The election is a test of popularity for General (retd.) Fonseka after his emergence as the rallying point for the entire Opposition during the presidential election. Trends available so far suggest that the alliance is trailing far behind the front led by the UNP.

There is no clear picture available yet on the Northern Province where election is being held for the first time without the LTTE factor. However, indications are the pro-LTTE TNA is a dominant political force in the province and is expected to put up a good show.

The Election Commission has decided to withhold results in Trincomalee district in the Eastern Province on account of irregularities in some booths.

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), an independent NGO, recorded 84 Major and 202 Minor incidents of election related violence. The majority of incidents recorded during polling hours related to campaigning and other election offences stand at 189.

[Full Coverage]

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