Ruling party expected to win polls in Sri Lanka (Lead)

February 14th, 2009 - 3:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Feb 14 (DPA) Sri Lanka’s ruling party was poised to win elections being held Saturday in two of the nine provinces in what is widely seen as a prelude to snap parliamentary polls this year.

The voting to select members of provincial councils was being held in the Central and North-Western provinces where more than 3.4 million voters are registered to vote.

The ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa campaigned on the government’s military achievements after troops captured almost all Tamil rebel-held areas in the northern and eastern parts of the country since launching an offensive in 2006.

The main opposition United National Party - led by former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the opposition leader in parliament - focused on the cost of living while criticising the ruling party for misusing military achievements for political gain.

The UPFA appeared to have the edge because of military successes that have seen the government regain control of the Eastern province and nearly all of the Northern province from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which has been fighting for more than 25 years for an independent homeland for the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka.

The two provincial elections were being held ahead of schedule and were due to be followed by elections in three more provinces.

Similar elections were held in May and August in three other provinces, including the Eastern province. Rajapaksa’s party won all three elections.

The UPFA government’s term ends in April 2010, but Rajapaksa was likely to call for parliamentary elections in the middle of this year to try to extend his government’s tenure for another six years. Election results are expected Saturday night.

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