SL ruling party wins provincial polls
Monday, 25 August 2008

REUTERS, COLOMBO- Sri Lanka's ruling party won weekend provincial polls and said the victory was an electoral endorsement of its eight-month campaign to militarily crush Tamil Tiger separatists.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won 56.3 percent of council seats in North Central province and 55.3 percent in Sabaragamuwa province, two of nine on the Indian Ocean island that has been fighting a civil war since 1983.
More than 68 percent of the 2.1 million registered voters cast their ballots on what observers said was a peaceful day in spite of pre-poll violence and intimidation, and reports of rigging by election monitors.
"The expectations of violence were fortunately not met," the independent Centre for Monitoring Election Violence said in a statement.
Rajapaksa's party in North Central province aligned with the TMVP, a grouping of Tiger defectors accused by rights groups of abductions and extrajudicial killings, as it did in elections in the island's war-ravaged east in May.
At that poll, election monitors and opposition party accused the TMVP of violence, which it denied.
Media and Information Minister Anura Priyadharsana Yapa told Reuters the victory was "a clear endorsement to move forward. This is also endorsement of the decision taken by the president and the government to eradicate terrorism from the country."
Rajapaksa in January scrapped an often-ignored ceasefire, arguing the rebels had been using the lull in combat to re-arm.
Since then, the military has sent air, land and sea forces to try and encircle them in their northern strongholds of Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi.
"There is no connection between the war and the provincial elections," said Tissa Attanayake, the general secretary of the main opposition United National Party. "These results do not reflect the real franchise as there was violence and intimidation."
The rebels, who are fighting to create an independent state for the ethnic minority Tamil people in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, regularly retaliate with suicide attacks and roadside bombs. That has deterred some tourists and worried investors in the nation's $27 billion economy.

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