COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s ruling party has claimed victory in parliamentary polls marked by record low turnout and reports of voter intimidation.With more than a fifth of ballots counted, the United People’s Freedom Alliance of the President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had 62.1 per cent of the vote while the opposition United National Party had 27.32 per cent.”We have won the election,” said the Transport Minister, Dullas Alahaperuma, who predicted the collated results would give his party 138 to 142 seats in the 225-member Parliament.It was the first parliamentary poll since the government defeated Tamil Tiger rebels last May, ending a 26-year conflict.The widely expected victory for the ruling party will further strengthen Mr Rajapaksa’s grip on power just three months after he won a second term as President by a wide margin.Mr Rajapaksa had been hoping for a two-thirds majority that would allow him to amend the constitution, which limits presidents to two successive terms.For many Sri Lankans it was the first legislative election in which they could vote without fear of Tamil Tiger violence.However, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence reported 286 incidents of violence on polling day, including a gun battle between opposition and government supporters. It said there were also numerous reports of government supporters intimidating voters.Turnout was expected to be between 50 and 55 per cent of the 14 million voters, the lowest ever in a parliamentary poll, after a lacklustre election campaign. Turnout in parts of the Tamil Jaffna peninsula was as low as 10 per cent.The previous low was 63 per cent when Sinhalese militants and Tamil rebels tried to sabotage the 1989 election by killing dozens of candidates, their supporters and election officials.While Mr Rajapaksa’s party is well ahead, it is unlikely to secure the two-thirds majority needed to push through constitutional change.Mr Rajapaksa’s rival in the presidential poll, former army chief Sarath Fonseka, is in custody and facing court martial.Agence France-Presse
Nanjing Night Net