Sri Lanka ruling party heads for local council win

Mar. 31 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s ruling party Friday was headed for a comfortable sweep of local council elections after the first test of public opinion since President Mahinda Rajapakse came to power. Official results declared by the Sri Lankan election department showed that Rajapakse’s people’s Alliance had won 39 out of the 49 councils declared so far after Thursday’s local government election for 266 councils.

The main opposition United National Party (UNP) had secured just five while the principal minority Tamil party won two and the leading Marxist party retained a council they had won in 2002.

Two councils went to two other minor parties.

A low turnout marred the council elections, which independent election monitors said was largely free and fair.

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 ballot