Former Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s SLPP is heading towards a landslide victory at the local government election garnering, 45 per cent of the majority votes, media reports said. Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition yesterday faced its first polls test with over 15 million eligible voters participating in the election to appoint 340 of the island’s 341 local councils, according to officials. According to the results, the Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP) has garnered 703,117 votes along with 909 seats whereas the United National Party (UNP) has secured 469,986 votes with 459 seats, the Daily Mirror reported. The SLPP is heading towards a landslide victory at the local government election garnering, 45 per cent of the majority votes, it said. By morning, out of the 81 councils election results declared, Rajapaksa’s SLPP had won 51 councils in an unexpected good show.
Both President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) are trounced. The UNP had bagged only 10 councils out of the 81 and was in level terms with the north-based Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) who had also bagged 10 councils. The voter turn out in the poll was expected to cross 65 per cent, election officials said. Rajapaksa’s good show indicates that he may return to the big arena after being sidelined with his January 2015 loss to Sirisena in the presidential election. The two time president has been voted back with overwhelming support of the Sinhala Buddhist majority who view them as their hero for ending the 30 year separatist war of the LTTE. In a statement, he thanked the voters and appealed for calm in celebrating the victory.
Sirisena was voted into office on the strength of support mainly from minority Tamil and Muslin communities. The local polls victory for Rajapaksa may even lead to the change of government with the UNP coming under pressure to resign and sit in opposition once again, analysts say. Sirisena faces a sterner challenge from his predecessor Rajapaksa. Sirisena’s relationship with Wickremesinghe, his main supporter when he defeated Rajapaksa in the presidency in 2015, has soured in recent months. Sirisena has targeted the Wickremesinghe’s UNP, dubbing it even more corrupt than the Rajapaksa government of which Sirisena walked out to become the then main opposition challenger. His faction of the SLFP has been accused of delaying the election out of fear of losing them by the faction led by former president Rajapaksa.
The government had postponed the elections for over 330 local councils in the island nation since 2015 for electoral reforms. In order to postpone the polls by a year, the government proposed an amendment to the Constitution to hold elections for all nine provincial councils on a single day. The Supreme Court in September ruled that the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution to hold council elections on a single day requires two-third parliamentary majority and a nationwide referendum. Also there is a 25 per cent guaranteed women’s representation in each council.