Election set to strengthen Sri Lanka president

Sri Dharanee Performance Arts Theatre

COLOMBO, April 5, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, accused by critics of stifling dissent and persecuting the opposition, looks set to consolidate his hold on power in parliamentary elections this week.

Rajapakse called Thursday’s vote two months ahead of schedule after his thumping re-election in January and his Freedom Alliance party is in line for an easy majority in the 225-member national legislature, according to analysts.

The opposition, which united behind a common candidate, former army chief Sarath Fonseka, for the presidential poll, has now split, giving Rajapakse’s party a clearer run in the election.

“The government has no issue winning the election, but their challenge is to increase the majority,” said political commentator Victor Ivan, referring to the 126 seats currently held by the ruling party.

Fonseka is now under detention and faces another hearing in an ongoing court martial process on Tuesday that could see him jailed for years for allegedly engaging in politics while in uniform and making illegal army procurements.

The opposition alliance have called on Fonseka to be released after he was arrested by the military 12 days after losing to Rajapakse, but each part