The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has staked claim to form the government in the Eastern Province, relying on the fact that the formations opposed to the Sri Lanka’s ruling alliance, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), garnered more votes and hence more seats in the elections held on September 8.

TNA, the grouping with second best numbers in the polls, said those opposed to the government managed to get 22 members elected, while the ruling combine could elect only 14.

“We have staked claim to form the government,” said TNA leader M.A. Sumanthiran, when asked if the TNA would approach the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress to cobble together a coalition in the East. TNA won 11 seats in an election that did not throw up any surprises. Despite TNA’s claim, the UPFA is likely to form the government — the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), which won seven seats and is part of the UPFA government in Colombo, is expected to support it to pass the halfway mark in the 37-member assembly.

Eastern province has three districts — Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee. In Batticaloa, the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) — part of TNA — made major gains, improving its vote share and managing to get six seats. UPFA managed four, and SLMC one. In Ampara, UPFA won five seats while SLMC managed four. The country's main opposition United National Party, got enough votes to send three representatives to the council and ITAK managed to get two.

In Trincomalee, ITAK and UPFA managed to win enough votes for three seats each, while SLMC cornered two. UNP and the far-right Sinhala party NFF won one each. The ruling UPFA also swept the polls in the two other provinces that went to polls —bagging a majority of seats in north-central and the south-central Sabaragamuva provincial councils.

The most keenly watched elections were in the East. The TNA was pitted against the all powerful UPFA, which also counts on the support of former Tamil Tiger leaders Sivanesathurai Santhirakanthan alias Pillaiyan and Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna. Mr. Pillaiyan made international headlines when he was made Chief Minister after the elections in mid-2008. The provincial elections were called for 10 months ahead of the provincial Assembly completing its term.

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