Setback for Tamil party in Sri Lanka local election
Sri Lanka’s ruling party has defeated the country’s main ethnic Tamil party in a provincial election seen as a test of whether Tamils still want self-rule or are satisfied with government-led development programmes in a region devastated by decades of civil war.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s United People’s Freedom Alliance won 14 seats in the Eastern Provincial Council, while the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) secured 11, the department of elections said yesterday.
Though it did not win enough seats in Saturday’s election to form a single-party government, the UPFA may get the support of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, which won seven seats, to muster a majority in the 37-member council.
The defeat will be seen as a setback for the TNA, which was hoping that a victory would be seen as a mandate for more power-sharing in Tamil-majority areas. The ethnic Sinhalese- controlled government, meanwhile, was looking to use an election victory to show that Tamils are content with post-war development.
Voter turnout in Batticaloa, one of Eastern Province’s three districts, appeared very low, especially in Tamil villages.
Varnakulasingham Kamaladhas, a social worker in Batticaloa, said a low Tamil turnout pointed to public apathy toward politics after years of violence, as well as a shift away from a nationalistic mindset.
“The voting patterns show that the Tamils have looked for a genuine people-based leadership. In its absence they have voted for the TNA,” Mr Kamaladhas said.
Tamil Tiger rebels fought a 25-year civil war to create an independent Tamil state in a merged north and east, but they were defeated in May 2009.
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