Three provinces went to the polls on Saturday in which nothing is expected to go wrong for the United People’s Freedom Alliance. There is some interest in the Eastern Province over the numbers that the Tamil National Alliance — the lone outfit that reflects the hopes and aspirations of the Northern Tamils — will manage to secure. For the TNA, this is an acid test: if it represents a larger body of Tamils or merely those belonging to the Northern Province.
Turn out hovered in the mid-fifties,according to the Election Secretariat. In the Eastern Province, 35 members will be elected from 1,470 candidates. Sri Lanka follows proportional representation, meaning parties get seats in the Provincial Assembly based on the percentage of votes they garner.
The TNA won the local bodies elections earlier, and is seeking control of the Assembly for the first time. But being poor negotiators and deeply suspicious of other formations, they could not hammer together a winning combination. Their natural ally is the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC). It requested the SLMC’s help in forming a government in the Eastern Province, but the SLMC is yet to respond.
SLMC will decide which combine will form the government.
The SLMC — part of the UPFA government — is contesting on its own, while remaining part of the Federal government. It is likely to constitute the largest single block in the assembly, and hopes to give the world the first Tamil Muslim Chief Minister.
The first Tamil Chief Minister of a province outside Tamil Nadu, Pillaiyan alias Sivanesathurai Santhirakanthan — a former Tamil Tiger child soldier who later joined forces with the Rajapaksa government and became its poster-boy — is hopeful of retaining his position. This is despite the fact that his party may not have the numbers. He has pinned his hopes on to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to make his desire of a second term come true.
His main detractor is his former comrade in arms, Karuna alias Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan — who is resentful of the growing clout of Mr. Pillaiyan. Mr. Karuna, who controlled the Eastern Army of the Tamil Tigers at one point, switched sides, and is now a deputy Minister.
Throughout the election campaign, he has maintained a low profile, and has not been accused of any major electoral violations. The same cannot be said of Mr. Pillaiyan, a check with multiple sources reveal.