Sri Lanka ruling party claims election victory

April 9, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s ruling party claimed victory Friday in parliamentary polls, as counting showed them well ahead after a ballot marked by record low turnout and reports of voter intimidation. With more than a fifth of ballots counted, President Mahinda Rajapakse’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) had secured 62.1 percent of the vote, with the main opposition United National Party a distant second with 27.32 percent.

“We have won the election,” said Transport Minister and UPFA spokesman Dullas Alahaperuma, who predicted the collated results would give his party 138 to 142 seats in the 225-member parliament.

It was the first parliamentary poll since the government defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May last year, ending a bloody three-decade conflict.

The widely expected victory for the ruling party will further strengthen Rajapakse’s grip on power just three months after he won a second term as president by an emphatic margin.

Rajapakse had been hoping for a two thirds majority that would allow him to amend the constitution, which currently limits presidents to two successive terms.

“I want a very strong parliament to develop the country,” he told reporters