Low turnout in Sri Lanka local polls

Mar. 30 (AFP) – A low turnout marred municipal elections in Sri Lanka Thursday after a campaign which unexpectedly focused on local issues instead of the usual electoral favourite, the island’s divisive peace process. Election officials estimated that only about half the 10.1 million eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots to elect municipal, urban and village councils, compared to 67 percent in the last such poll in 2002.

Analysts attributed the poor showing to the fact that the peace process was pushed to the background as candidates focused on local issues such as garbage removal and the delivery of utilities.

There was no balloting in the island’s restive northern and eastern regions which are largely under the control of Tamil Tiger rebels.

Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake 10 days ago put off polling for six months after local administrators complained of practical difficulties in staging the poll in areas where the rebels hold sway.

The poll was the first test of public opinion since President Mahinda Rajapakse came to power last November with the backing of nationalist Buddhist monks and Marxists.

However analysts said the vote is unlikely to impact on the peace process