International

Rajapaksa-backed party poised for big win in Lanka’s local polls

A file photo of former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.   | Photo Credit: AP

​The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (​SLPP or ​Sri Lanka People’s Front), backed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is poised for a landslide victory in the ​country's ​February 10 local government polls.

Early trends, which began emerging late Saturday, point to an unexpected sweep by the SLPP, ​​formed by Mr. Rajapaksa’s supporters in 2016. The SLPP’s entry into the fray​​ led to a three-cornered fight, along with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP), ​and ​President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). ​ A faction of the SLFP backs Mr. Rajapaksa, who still retains party membership even as he campaigned for the rival SLPP.

With growing tensions between the SLFP and UNP, who are coalition partners in the national government, and the two parties’ decision to contest local polls separately, the local government elections assumed the significance of a national contest.

According to official results being released on Sunday morning, the SLPP was leading in most of the wards in the country’s Sinhala-majority areas. Mr. Rajapaksa has asked his supporters to celebrate the victory “peacefully”.

​​In the Tamil-majority north, the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK), at the helm of the Tamil National Alliance, the country’s official Opposition in parliament, appears to be leading in most wards. In Jaffna, however, the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) made significant gains, as has the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), in Kayts and Delft islands, off Jaffna peninsula.

Official results in the country’s Eastern Province, with a sizeable population of Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalese, and in the hill country, which is home to Malayaha Tamils, are still emerging.

This is the first election in Sri Lanka that mandated a 25 % representation of women in local government bodies. This is also the first time that the country followed a mixed electoral model whereby 60% of members will be elected by the first-past-the-post system and the rest through closed list proportional representation.

Following clear indications of the extent of SLPP’s win, its leaders have called for the resignation of the government, as “people have rejected its earlier mandate.”

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 6:59:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/rajapaksa-backed-party-poised-for-big-win-in-lankas-local-polls/article22720731.ece

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