Ruling coalition wins local election with reduced majority

Ballot box -1  The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), coalition led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, retained the country’s Western and Southern provinces after the provincial council elections held on Saturday.

In the Western Province, covering Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara districts, the UPFA secured 53.35 per cent of the votes, winning 56 seats, including two bonus seats.

The United National Party (UNP), the main Opposition led by, Ranil Wikramasinghe, received 26.59 per cent of the votes, securing 28 seats.

The UPFA suffered a bigger erosion of support in the western province down to 56 from 68 seats held previously, with the smaller opposition parties making inroads.

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 nine seats. The party pushed the third force JVP to fourth place in the West. JVP won six seats up from three in 2009. Fonseka’s party ended up having 12 seats in the two councils as they won three seats in the South.

In the Southern Province of Galle, Matara and Hambantota districts considered the Sinhala heartland, 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, winning three seats.

The ruling party wanted Saturday’s vote to be a referendum on a UN Human Rights Council’s resolution last week to set up an International Inquiry.The party asked voters to send a strong message to the UN that ordinary Sri Lankans were against an international probe into allegations up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the island’s war.

The government banked on its unprecedented infrastructure development with ports, airports and highways.

The opposition urged voters to issue a warning to the Rajapaksa’s government for bungling of the economy, his inability to uphold the rule of law, curb corruption and drug pedalling. The UNP’s performance also puts in focus questions about its future, particularly in the context of the presidential elections, which is scheduled for 2016.

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

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