Sri Lanka 's president says election win a mandate for war against Tamil rebels
Sun May 11, 2008 07:30 EDT .
RAVI NESSMAN - Associated Press Writer - BATTICALOA, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - 's president on Sunday hailed his party's election victory in the country's tense Eastern Province as a mandate to push ahead with his war against Tamil Tiger rebels in the north. ``This is a totally distorted mandate that they got. This is obtained by fraud,'' said Rauff Hakeem, leader of the opposition Sri Lanka - Muslim Congress.
The election commission said the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance coalition won 52 percent of the vote, giving it a total of 20 seats on the province's 37-member council. The opposition United National Party which ran in coalition with Hakeem's party won 42 percent of the vote and 15 seats, while two smaller parties won a seat each, the commission said.
The ruling party ran in a coalition with a breakaway rebel faction known as the TMVP.
Independent monitors said the TMVP threatened voters during the election, opposition parliamentarians were attacked by mobs, children who appeared to be around 13 years old cast ballots, and gangs of people shuttled between polling stations to vote numerous times.
UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake said the vote was marred by violence and rigging and his party was ``totally rejecting the results.''
Opposition leaders planned to meet in Colombo to decide whether to file a suit to overturn the election, Hakeem said.
Kingsley Rodrigo, head of the independent People's Action for Free and Fair Elections, said the ruling party misused government resources and the state media in the campaign and many candidates could not campaign freely.
``I can't say it was a free and fair election because it was not really,'' he said. However, the election did go smoothly in about 80 percent of polling stations, he said.
About 60 percent of the province's nearly 1 million registered voters cast ballots, according to the election commission, a turnout that opposition officials and election monitors said was low for a vote of such importance.
Many potential voters, enough to have swayed the election, may have stayed home following a series of bombing and mortar attacks blamed on the Tamil Tigers in the hours before the poll, Rodrigo said.
Chandrapala Liyanage, a presidential spokesman, dismissed complaints about the conduct of the election.
``This is clearly a people's mandate, there was no indiscipline or nothing illegal about it,'' he said.
The election was intended to give a degree of self-rule to the region divided among Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils and to counter rebel demands for an independent state.
Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives think tank, said he questioned how much power the government would actually give the council, which is likely to headed by a former rebel leader known as Pillaiyan.
``Now it's going to be interesting to see how this council functions,'' he said.
Associated Press reporter Krishan Francis in Colombo contributed to this report.Discuss this story
Published: Sun May 11 09:34:39 EDT 2008