Early results show president's party leading
As the counting of votes in the Sri Lankan parliamentary elections proceeded apace on Saturday, by mid-day, the United Peoples' Freedom Alliance (UPFA), led by President Chandrika Kumaratunga, was leading over the United National Front (UNF) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The lead was by more than five percentage points in 49 electorates spread through the length and breadth of the country for which figures were available.
The UPFA had notched up 47.8% of the vote, as against 42% by the UNF in these electorates. The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) was a poor third, with 4.5%.
The electorate-wise voting figures are only an indication of the popular mood. They do not indicate the number of seats a party will get in parliament, because that is decided on the basis of district-wise figures and a complicated system of proportional representation.
To complicate matters further, there are "bonus" seats and "national" level seats which are given to each party.
One will, therefore, have to wait for the full results to be out to know how many seats each party will get in the 225 member house.
The UPFA was ahead of the UNF in the districts of Ratnapura, Galle, Anuradhapura, Kegalle, Gampaha, Pollonaruwa, Monaragala, Matara, Hambantota and parts of Badulla and Galle. And the UNF was ahead in Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Colombo, Matale and parts of Badulla and Galle.
In the Tamil-dominated North Eastern Province (N EP), where the LTTE is making a bid to sweep the polls through its proxy the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (formerly Tamil National Alliance), the ITAK was leading massively.
In the northern districts, the ITAK had scored more than 90%.
The anti-LTTE Eelam Peoples' Democratic Party (EPDP) led by Douglas Devananda was a very poor second and the Independent Group (1) V. Anandasangaree was an extremely poor third.
In the Eastern district of Batticaloa, the ITAK is dominated by the LTTE's breakaway group led by Col. Karuna. Here too the ITAK did well, polling over 70% of the votes. But unlike in the North, there will be no sweep here because the Eastern districts are ethnically diverse and there are Muslim and Sinhala (national) parties in the fray. Voting in the North East is largely on a communal basis.
In terms of the fight between the LTTE Supremo Prabhakaran and the renegade commander Karuna, the north will be with Prabhakaran and the East is likely to be with Karuna.
While people from areas under the control of Karuna voted fairly heavily, those in the government controlled areas (presumably supporting Prabhakaan) voted poorly (30% to 40% only).
But overall, Prabhakaran will have the upper hand vis a vis Karuna because most of the ITAK MPs will be from the northern districts.