Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party won a landslide victory yesterday in landmark elections in the battle-scarred north, raising hopes of some degree of self-rule for the ethnic minority after decades of war.
The opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won 30 out of 38 seats in polls for a provincial council in the former war zone.
The election was called by the government amid international pressure for the majority Sinhalese to share power with Tamils four years after the end of the bloody separatist conflict.
TNA leader C.V. Wigneswaran said the results were an overwhelming vote for self-rule for Tamils. He repeated his demand for the military to withdraw from the Tamil-dominated north, saying there was no reason for its presence since the end of the war in 2009.
Saturday’s vote in the former rebel stronghold has been promoted by the UN Human Rights Council as a step toward ethnic reconciliation.
The TNA swept all five districts in the election for the Northern Provincial Council, results from the Sri Lankan Department of Elections showed. The poll for the council, the first in 26 years, was held amid claims that the military tried to intimidate and harass voters and a Tamil candidate.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse’s United People’s Freedom Alliance, which governs nationally, won just seven seats in a humiliating defeat.
Rajapakse has accused the TNA of raising expectations of a separate state, a move opposed by the Sinhalese majority.
Rajapakse has won almost every major election since he led the campaign that crushed Tamil Tigers in 2009.
However, the spectacular military success has also triggered international calls to probe allegations his troops killed up to 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of fighting.
The Sri Lankan Department of Information on Saturday said the 68 percent turnout in the north was a good sign of “participatory democracy.”
The election comes ahead of a Commonwealth heads of government summit due to take place in Colombo in the middle of November, which Canada has boycotted over human rights concerns.