Sun, Apr 11, 2010 - Page 4 News List

Sri Lankan ruling party celebrates landslide victory

AFP , COLOMBO, SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka’s ruling party yesterday celebrated its landslide victory in the country’s first peacetime parliamentary polls since crushing insurgent Tamil Tiger rebels last year.

Government supporters carried national flags as they paraded through the streets and lit firecrackers, despite an official weeklong ban on public celebrations.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said he saw the overwhelming majority for his United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) as a vote for his economic policies and the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels in a major military offensive last year.

“This outstanding victory is an endorsement of the ‘Mahinda Chintana’ [vision],” Rajapakse said in a statement on Friday night.

The UPFA secured 117 seats in the 225-member assembly with another 45 seats still to be declared. The main opposition United National Party (UNP) was reduced to 46 seats.

“This is a huge endorsement of the work of the president,” Rajapakse’s spokesman Chandrapala Liyanage said.

“The party has won parliament very comfortably,” Liyanage told reporters, predicting the UPFA would secure at least 24 of the undeclared seats, leaving it just nine seats short of claiming a two-thirds majority when final results are declared on April 19.

Rajapakse had been hoping for a two-thirds majority that would allow him to alter the Constitution, which currently limits presidents to two successive terms.

Police chief Mahinda Balasuriya appealed for calm and said victory celebrations should be peaceful.

Rajapakse called the vote ahead of schedule after his January re-election, which came in the wake of his defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels last May.

The man who led the military, former army chief Sarath Fonseka contested the election from his cell at the naval headquarters in Colombo where he is detained. He won a seat representing part of Colombo, but his party did poorly, securing only five seats.

Opposition parties were largely united behind Fonseka in his campaign for the presidency in January, but lost cohesion after his arrest and went into the parliamentary election with little hope of victory.

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