Ruling party wins provincial elections in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa's party won Saturday's provincial election in the eastern province, where the military ousted Tamil rebels in a series of a military operations earlier, election officials said Sunday, dpa reported.
The ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won the election and were set to secure 20 seats against the 17 seats for the main opposition United National Party (UNP) and two smaller parties.
The final vote count has been officially announced, but the tally of the seats in one of the district is to be finalized.
The UPFA won the Batticaloa and Ampara districts and lost in the Trincomalee district, but was set to get 18 seats and in addition obtained two bonus seats as the total votes gained in the entire eastern province was the highest than any other party.
In the entire province the UPFA obtained 52.2 per cent or 308,896 of the 591,676 valid votes cast while the UNP polled 42.3 per cent or 250,272 of the valid votes.
The victory was seen as a boost for the President Rajapaksa government which had called voters to endorse the military campaign carried out against the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Rajapaksa ahead of the polls said that a victory for the government would encourage the security forces who are currently carrying out military operations against the rebels in the northern province.
The establishment of the provincial council in the eastern province would provide political leadership in the east.
The eastern province has a mixed population with 42.9 Tamils and 31.6 Muslims while the Sinhalese who are the majority community in the county account for only 24.9 in the east.
It was not immediately clear whether Rajapaksa would opt to appoint a Tamil or a Muslim chief minister for the eastern province.
A breakaway group of the rebels which still remains an armed group, but contested under the UPFA is also expecting their group leader known as Pilliyan to be named as the chief minister, but a Muslim leader is also expecting the post.
Nearly 60 per cent of the near 1 million voters turned up to vote in the three districts.
Election monitoring groups and the opposition highlighted election irregularities including cases of impersonation, stuffing of ballot boxes, driving away polling agents of opposition parties and cases of intimidation. The UPFA denied the claim and called the elections free and fair.
The opposition alleged the UPFA forged identity cards for names of voters who are displaced or those who have left the country due to the conflict.