Sri Lanka ruling party wins huge majority


Afp April 21, 2010

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's ruling party fell just short of a two-thirds majority in the island's first parliamentary poll since the end of the long war against Tamil rebels, final results showed on Wednesday.

President Mahinda Rajapakse's United People's Freedom Alliance secured 144 seats in the 225-member assembly after a re-run Tuesday in two constituencies where violence disrupted the April 8 vote.

The two-thirds threshold -- or 150 seats -- would be required for the government to rewrite the constitution, which currently prevents Rajapakse from standing for re-election when his second term ends in 2016.

The main opposition United National Party was trounced in the poll, winning just 60 seats, while the main minority Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance came third with 14.

The leftist Democratic National Alliance of former army chief and key Rajapakse rival Sarath Fonseka picked up seven seats in the new legislature, which holds its first session on Thursday.

The final result showed that 61.26 percent of the 14.08 million electorate voted, making it the lowest turnout in Sri Lankan legislative elections. The previous low was 63 percent in 1989.

The parliamentary election was held just two months after a presidential poll which returned Rajapakse to power and which saw more than 75 percent of the electorate cast their ballots.

The two nationwide elections were the first since the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels in May last year, ending decades of ethnic bloodshed which according to the United Nations claimed up to 100,000 lives. Fonseka -- who remains in detention after being arrested by the military 12 days after he lost the presidential election -- won a seat in parliament and is expected be to released to attend the opening of the new session.

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