Sri Lanka’s all-powerful Rajapaksas win landslide in parliamentary election

By Aanya Wipulasena

Colombo, Aug 7 (efe-epa).- Sri Lanka’s ruling Rajapaksa brothers won a landslide in the parliamentary election, according to the final results declared Friday, receiving a fresh mandate to cement their grip on power.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’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, was decimated as it 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-in by his younger brother, the president, as the Rajapaksas move to tighten their group on 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 UNP quickly conceded the defeat and pledged to introspect and reorganize and restructure the party.

“It is evident that in this election, the political parties based on policies have been taken over political movements. This could lead to an unstable political situation in the years to come,” the opposition party said in a statement.

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.

Gehan Gunatilleke, a human rights lawyer, told EFE that the focus of the Rajapaksa led government and the legislature would be “security and economic development” as they now face “no real institutional impediments in delivering on their campaign promises.”

Gunatillele said the SLPP should now face no obstacle in repealing the 19th constitutional amendment, which cripples the presidential powers.

“The legislature and the executive will both be controlled by the same party. So this new concentration of power raises doubts over the need for radical constitutional reform.”

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.

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