Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition wins in provincial polls (Lead)February 15th, 2009 - 5:20 pm ICT by IANS
Colombo, Feb 15 (IANS) President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition party registered a landslide victory at the poll held Saturday for two provincial councils, refreshing its mandate to conduct its fight-to-finish military campaign against the Tamil Tigers.
According to results announced Sunday, United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA) retained its control in the North-Western and Northern provinces by winning the polls by nearly two-thirds majority.
During his election campaigns, President Rajapaksa had asked the people to vote for his party if they wanted his government to continue the military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
A total of 2,247 candidates were in the fray from 16 political parties and 43 independent groups to elect 106 members to both the provincial councils. According to the election department officials, nearly 60 percent of the total number of 3,408,182 registered voters (24.4 percent of country’s total voters) cast their votes at 2,579 centres.
Of the results announced for 39 polling divisions in the two provinces, the ruling coalition has won 38 and the main opposition United National Party (UNP) which was expected to give a close chase, managed to win only one polling division.
The UNP won in the Nuwara-Eliya-Maskeliya polling division in the central hill district where a large number of Indian-origin Tamils are residing.
The election department said that the voting was largely free of violence, except for the Puttlam polling division in the North-Western province. Election Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake has ordered a repoll in that polling division.
In the Central Province, the UPFA has won 36 seats with 650,203 votes (59.53 percent) while the UNP has won 22 seats with 422,125 (38.65 percent) despite the fact that it fielded the party’s national organiser S.B. Dissanayake as the chief ministerial candidate.
The UPFA has won 18 of the 19 polling divisions in the North-Western province.
The main opposition UNP has been losing almost all the elections since its leader lost the last presidential elections in December 2005 to Rajapaksa.
The party has faced internal splits since then due to leadership crisis, with the cream of its senior parliamentarians joining the government and holding top ministerial portfolios.