Mon, Oct 12, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Rajapaksa victorious in crucial polls

WHAT’S NEXT? After the ruling coalition won its eighth provincial poll since May last year, the country’s president is expected to call early national elections

REUTERS , COLOMBO

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition has recorded a strong victory at the polls in his native south, helped by his popularity after defeating Tamil Tiger rebels in a 25-year war.

The president’s coalition won 38 seats in the 55-member council of Southern Province in Saturday’s poll, election officials said early yesterday.

The popular vote for parties in Rajapaksa’s United Peoples Freedom Alliance was 68 percent, a lopsided win, but less than the 70 percent to 80 percent the government had forecast in the province, where Rajapaksa has started massive development projects including the country’s largest port.

The margin was strong enough that Rajapaksa is likely to call early national elections.

Election monitors have said there was some violence, but it was low compared to pre-poll incidents.

Opposition parties had alleged use of state media and resources, as well as promises of government jobs, to the ruling party’s advantage during the campaign.

With the victory, Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition has won all eight provincial elections held in a staggered manner since May last year to select provincial councillors. Only the formerly Tiger-ruled Northern Province has yet to vote.

Analysts say Rajapaksa would opt for an early presidential poll, which his allies expect him to call in March, while still enjoying popularity from winning the war against the Tigers.

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