Rajapaksas win landslide in Sri Lanka election

By Aanya Wipulasena

Colombo, Aug 6 (efe-epa).- President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ruling party won a landslide in Sri Lanka’s parliamentary election, according to the final results declared Friday.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by the president’s all-powerful elder brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa won 145 seats in the 225-member parliament.

The main opposition United National Party (UNP), one of the oldest political groups in the country, led by former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, secured a meager 2.15 percent votes and managed to win just one seat.

However, its breakaway faction, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), which is only a few months old, secured a distant second spot with 54 seats in Wednesday’s vote that saw some 72 percent of the 16.2 million eligible voters exercise their franchise.

The prime minister is likely to be sworn by his younger brother, the president, as the Rajapaksas move to tighten their group over the power and push through planned constitutional amendments even as their party still needs five more seats for the required legislative strength.

However, the SLPP is likely to ally with any of the smaller parties to get that extra push of five more seats for a supermajority of 150 seats to amend the constitution.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa tweeted a congratulatory message for his supporters who ensured “a great victory” for his party.

“This will enable that the implementation of my ‘vision for prosperity’ policy will be a reality tomorrow,” he said.

The Rajapaksa brothers are known for defeating Tamil separatist rebels that ended a decades-long Sri Lankan ethnic conflict in 2009. However, activists accuse them of committing grave rights violations during the final battle against the Tamil rebels.

Political analyst Kusal Perera told EFE that the Rajapaksas’ win did not come as a surprise since the party had banked on securing the votes of the country’s majority Sinhala Buddhist community.

“And they had ample support due to an opposition that was divided and disintegrated and had no alternative program to present to the people,” Perera said.

Sri Lanka’s election drew international attention, being the first major polls held during a global pandemic in the South Asian region that has recorded over 2.2 million infections so far.

Despite the looming threat of the virus, the island nation maintained its average of 70 percent voter turnout.

People showed more enthusiasm during last year’s presidential election when Gotabaya Rajapaksa secured an easy win against his opponent Sajith Premadasa who campaigned under the UNP ticket.

The turnout of the 2015 parliamentary polls was 76 percent.

A total of 7,452 candidates from 40 political parties and 312 independent groups were in the fray for 196 seats of the parliament.

The remaining 29 seats are set to be allotted a national list of nominees from the major parties and groups in the proportion of their votes share.

The Election Commission took strict health measures and urged voters to bring their pens to mark the ballots, wear face masks, and imposed social distancing.

“We also kept hand sanitizers, soap, and running water for the voters to wash their hands before they entered and left the polling booths,” EC member Ratnajeevan Hoole said.

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