Sri Lanka’s ruling party won control of the country’s tense Eastern Province on Sunday following an election that monitors said was marred by voter intimidation and fraud.
The election commission said the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance coalition won 52 per cent of the vote, giving it 18 seats — plus two bonus seats given to the winner — on the province’s 37-member council. The Opposition United National Party won 42 per cent of the vote and captured 15 seats, while two smaller parties won one seat each, the commission said.
The opposition condemned the results of Saturday’s election, saying they were the outcome of an irreparably flawed vote. "This is a totally distorted mandate that they got. This is obtained by fraud," said Rauff Hakeem, leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, which ran in coalition with the UNP.
Opposition leaders planned to meet in Colombo to decide whether to file a suit to overturn the election, he said. The government said the provincial election would mark a fresh start for the region less than a year after the military seized control of the area from the LTTE, who ruled the area for 13 years.
It was also intended to give a degree of self-rule to the region — divided among Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils — and to counter rebel demands for an independent state, even as a civil war with the separatists rages on in the north.
The ruling party ran in a coalition with a breakaway rebel faction known as the TMVP, which has been accused of campaigning with weapons and threatening voters and Opposition candidates.
About 60 per cent of the province’s nearly 1 million registered voters cast ballots, according to the election commission, a turnout the Opposition and election monitors said was markedly low.
Clashes in North kill 17 LTTE
Meanwhile, in Colombo, the defence ministry said at least 17 LTTE members were killed in clashes with security forces in the north.