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Lanka’s ruling party sweeps local polls

The UPFA won both the North-Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces with the main opposition, United National Party (UNP), coming second.

world Updated: Aug 24, 2008 21:50 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The ruling coalition of United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa comfortably won Saturday’s provincial polls giving credence to the opinion that the majority in the country were behind the government’s fight against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The UPFA won both the North-Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces with the main opposition, United National Party (UNP), coming second.

The UPFA won 45 seats in the councils, securing 780246 votes. The UNP, led by former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, won 29 seats and 551605 votes. The radical leftist party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) put up an unexpectedly poor show winning three seats.

“I see the convincing victory by the United People’s Liberation Front (UPFA) at the elections to the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Councils held yesterday as a victory for all our people who love our motherland. It is an election where the country has won. While thanking the people of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Ratnapura, and Kegalle Districts and all others, who contributed to this victory, I call upon them to enjoy their success in peace,’’ Rajapaksa said in a statement.

The Election Department said that about 70 percent of a little over two million voters cast their votes to elect 77 members from among 1,698 candidates from 45 political parties. The independent Centre Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Sunday noted that apart from a few serious incidents, voting in both the provinces was relatively incident free. For Rajapaksa, who had dissolved the councils a few months ago and called for fresh mandate, the victory would mean a further shot in the arm in his fight against the LTTE.

He had repeatedly mentioned the war against LTTE in election speeches and had said that he and the armed forces “until the last rebel is killed or every inch of land is captured” from the LTTE. Rajapaksa had also made capital out of claims that the armed forces were closing in on the Tigers in the north and that their cadre strength was dwindling.

Sri Lanka battles kill 30 rebels, 3 soldiers
Government troops attacked Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged north, triggering battles that killed 30 rebels and three soldiers, the military said. The latest battles erupted on Saturday along the front lines separating government-held territory and the rebels’ de facto state in the north.