Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition sweeps provincial poll

August 24th, 2008 - 11:51 am ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Aug 24 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition Sunday swept the provincial council polls held for two of the island’s nine provincial councils.Voting was held Saturday for the Sabaragamuwa province (100 km south-east of Colombo), and North-Central provinces (180 km north-east of Colombo). According to the Election Secretariat, nearly 70 percent of little over two million eligible voters exercised their franchise in a relatively violence-free poll.

According to the official results announced so far, the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has won all 27 electorates in all four districts (Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Ratnapura and Kegalle) in these two provinces with a clear majority.

The final results have not been announced so far and are expected shortly.

The election results announced so far show that the United National Party (UNP) of former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has thrown a formidable challenge to the UPFA, although it failed to win a single electorate so far.

The radical Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the former coalition partner of the UPFA and expected to pose a formidable challenge to the two parties mainly in the North-Central province, has performed very badly in this contest.

Tight security arrangements were placed in these two provinces, which witnessed a large-scale violence in the run-up to the poll, with over 20,000 police personnel being deployed to guard the polling booths and counting centres.

An independent poll observer, Center Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) in a report Sunday noted that “apart from a few serious incidents and in comparison with previous provincial elections, Polling Day of the elections to the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provincial Councils was relatively incident-free”.

“The expectations of violence that were based on the incidence of violence in the last three days of the campaign in particular, were fortunately not met,” it said.

The CMEV, however, said that it had received 42 complaints of election related violence “of which 27 have been classified as major incidents”.

“These include seizing of polling cards, threat and intimidation of voters, shootings near polling centres, chasing away of polling agents, assault and threats to election monitors and party supporters,” the CMEV report said.

Riding on the public support for the ongoing war efforts against the Tamil Tiger rebels, President Mahinda Rajapaksa during the election campaign virtually turned this election as a referendum for the war on the LTTE.

He called upon voters to endorse the ongoing military operations against the Tamil rebels by voting for the UPFA.

Exactly a day before the polling, the government announced Friday that the advancing troops have captured two fresh villages - Thunukkai and Uyilankulam — from the Tamil Tiger rebels in the north and were operating just 12 km south of the rebel-heartland of Kilinochchi.

The president has vowed that the current military campaign would be continued “until the last rebel is killed or every inch of land is captured”.

However, the main opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, has accused the government of misusing the recent military victories to achieve narrow political gains.

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