Sri Lanka ruling coalition narrowly survives vote test

Colombo, Sep 21: Sri Lanka's ruling coalition has narrowly survived a keen challenge mounted by the opposition in a key provincial election, in a major blow to President Mahinda Rajapaksa who had campaigned personally for the party.

The United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) retained the Uva or the south-eastern provincial council by securing 19 out of 34 seats that went to the polls yesterday, but saw an unprecedented 22.98 percentage points drop in its popularity.

Main opposition United National Party's vote almost doubled, with the party winning 13 seats. The JVP or People's Liberation Front won 2 seats.

The UPFA had 25 seats previously. The drop in votes and in the number of seats compared with the previous election in 2009 for the ruling party was much significant.

The UNP's surge of over 100,000 votes in comparison was a major outcome for the faction ridden main opposition party. For Rajapaksa, who took active part in campaigning in the election for his nephew and the incumbent chief minister, the result could not come as an inspiration.

He is widely expected to call for a snap presidential polls to seek a third successive term early next year. A bitter pill for the Rajpaksa was the drop in vote at Moneragala, a predominantly rural majority Sinhala district.

He saw vote drop to 58 per cent from 81 per cent at Moneragala.

In the multi-ethnic Badulla district with a large population of Indian-origin people, the ruling coalition's vote dropped to 47 per cent from 67 per cent.


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