Early Lead

From left: Dr. Fernando Im, Senior Country Economist for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, The World Bank, Hon. Eran Wickramaratne, State Minister, Ministry of Finance and Mass Media, Dr. W A Wijewardana, Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Prof. Indralal de Silva, Former (Chair) of Demography, University of Colombo, Prof. Amala de Silva, Department of Economics, University of Colombo at the panel discussion on "Demographic Change in Sri Lanka" moderated by Dr. Ramani Gunatilaka, International Centre for Ethnic Studies.

President Chandrika Kumaratungas United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) was leading in early returns Saturday in parliamentary elections, which saw Sri Lankans turn out in large numbers to vote in what is seen as a test of peace talks and the health of the economy.
The Elections Dept., said the 608,458,postal votes counted so far, gave the UPFA a 50.6 percent edge over the Primiers United National Front (30.5) percent.

The Buddhist clergy led Jathika Hela Urumaya had secured 7.5 percent, while a pro-Tamil Tigers party the Tamil National Alliance had 2.3 percent of the postal ballots. rn

rnPostal ballots are those of government officials and armed forces who are based away from their voting districts.rn

rnDespite numerous reports of election rigging, independent monitors said that Fridays poll was smoothly run than previous local elections, which are often marked by widespread fraud and violence. rn

rnOverall turnout was about 75 percent of the countrys 12.8 mn registered voters, officials said.