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Ruling Coalition Retains Key Provinces in Sri Lanka Elections
Mar 31, 2014

The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, retained the country’s Western and Southern provinces after the provincial council elections held on 29 March.

In the Western Province—covering Colombo, Gampaha and Kaluthara districts—the UPFA secured 53.35 per cent of the votes, cornering 56 seats, including two bonus seats that the party securing highest share of votes gets as per Sri Lanka’s Proportional Representation System.  The United National Party (UNP), the main Opposition led by the former Prime Minister, Ranil Wikramasinghe, received 26.59 per cent of the votes, securing 28 seats. Coming third in the race was former Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka’s Democratic Party, which secured about 8 per cent of the votes, winning 9 seats.

In the Southern Province—including Galle, Matara and Hambantota districts that are considered the Sinhala heartland here—the UPFA secured 58.06 per cent of the votes, while the UNP got 25.77 per cent. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which recently saw a leadership change, received 9.05 per cent of the total voted polled in the Province. The Democratic Party received 6.27 per cent of the votes here, winning 3 seats.

Western and Southern Provincial Councils are the ethnic majority Sinhalese heartland, which account for more than a third of the country’s electorate.

At the moment, the UPFA rules eight of the nine provinces in Sri Lanka, with the exception of the Northern Province where elections were held for the first time in September 2013. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which won the polls with a thumping majority, rules the province.

President Rajapaksa had, over the last few weeks, been campaigning intensely for the provincial elections that were held a day after 23 countries voted in favour of the U.S.-backed resolution calling for an international probe in Sri Lanka. Much of the campaign rhetoric adopted by the ruling coalition was pegged to Geneva, about the West’s alleged conspiracy for regime change.

President Rajapaksa had based his campaign on the issue of the Sri Lanka resolution recently adopted at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). He had urged for votes as a befitting reply to the Western countries against him in the UNHRC. Rajapaksa had said that defeat in Geneva would be offset by his victory in the two provinces.

The UNHRC resolution prescribed an international investigation into alleged war crimes committed by government troops in the final battle with the LTTE 5-years ago. The government also banked on its unprecedented infrastructure development with ports, airports and highways.

The provincial elections are being seen as a prelude to the next presidential election.


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