Poll victory mandate for peace: Rajapaksa (Lead)May 11th, 2008 - 9:03 pm ICT by admin
By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, May 11 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa Sunday hailed his coalition’s victory in the maiden eastern provincial council poll as “a mandate” for his government’s approach “to achieve peace through defeat of terrorism”. “I note that the people of the East have given a clear mandate for peace through the defeat of terrorism, the strengthening of democracy and the development of the country,” Rajapaksa said in a statement.
The ruling coalition won the provincial council elections Saturday amid allegations of wide-spread poll violence.
According to the official election results, the ruling United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA), which formed an electoral alliance with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) break-away group Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) led by rebels’ former eastern commander ‘Colonel’ Karuna, won two of the three districts - Batticaloa and Amparai - securing 20 seats in the 37-member council. This includes two bonus seats.
Close behind is the main opposition United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) coalition, which has won the crucial Trincomalee district, capturing 15 seats in the council.
The Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil National Democratic Alliance (TNDA) have won one seat each in the council.
Of the 591,676 valid votes polled, UPFA won 52.21 percent (308,886 votes) while the UNP won 42.38 percent (250,732 votes).
Opposition parties including the UNP, JVP and SLMC have charged that the polls were largely marred by violence, including rigging, impersonation, assault and intimidation instigated by pro-government mobs.
Independent election monitors have also expressed a similar opinion on the conduct of the polls.
The independent Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) said it recorded 64 incidents of violence and among them “48 have been classified as major offences and 16 as minor” and urged the Election Commissioner to order a re-poll in the relevant areas.
Another poll monitoring group, Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE), in its report said the poll “was not at all free and fair”.
“It was clearly shown that the dominance of rule of law had been overtaken by a dominance of violence,” CaFFE said in a statement.
The government, however, denied these allegations and said the polls were “peaceful” and described the poll result as a “victory for democracy and development”.
Hailing the poll victory as an important milestone in his government’s policy to restore rights of the people in areas once dominated by the LTTE, President Rajapaksa said the voters in the East “have demonstrated their interest in protecting their democratic rights which were denied to them for nearly two decades by the forces of terror”.
“The representatives of the people chosen in this peaceful election represent the will of the people, and I look forward to their cooperation in the country’s march to strengthen and widen democracy throughout our country, and develop the Eastern province,” the president said.
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Tags: colonel karuna, council poll, election monitors, election violence, electoral alliance, independent centre, janatha, liberation tigers of tamil eelam, mahinda rajapaksa, muslim congress, national democratic alliance, official election results, opposition parties, poll violence, president mahinda rajapaksa, provincial council elections, slmc, united national party, upfa, viduthalai