Ruling party set to win in provincial polls

Other News Materials 24 August 2008 06:37 (UTC +04:00)

The ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) was heading for a comfortable victory Sunday in crucial provincial elections.

Polls were held in two of nine provinces where the government said it was seeking an endorsement for the ongoing military operations against Tamil rebels in northern Sri Lanka, the dpa reported.

Results from 13 of 27 electorates were announced after polling ended Saturday in the north central and Sabaragamuwa provinces - the UFPA won all.

Of the 2.1 million registered voters, about 70 per cent voted, officials said.

"The government is heading for a clear victory and this is an endorsement for the government's military campaign against the terrorist (Tamil rebels)," Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa told state-run radio.

Political parties and election monitors described the polls as "free and fair."

Ahead of the vote, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa asked citizens to support his military campaign - which is in full swing against rebels in the north - by voting for his party.

The president is likely to go ahead with elections in six more provinces at least six months ahead of schedule.

In May the first provincial election was held in the eastern province, which was won by Rajapaksa's party.