Colombo: Sri Lanka`s ruling UPFA on Sunday won key elections in three of the country`s nine provinces, including a victory in the Tamil and Muslim dominated eastern state that was once an LTTE stronghold, where the Mahinda Rajapaksa-led coalition defeated the main Tamil party TNA.
While UPFA won comfortable majorities in the north central province and south central Sabaragamuva provincial councils, it also managed to emerge as the single largest party in the multi-ethnic eastern province, above the ethnic Tamil party.
The results were a setback to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), once a proxy of LTTE, that was banking on Tamil support to be voted to power in the former battleground state where the Tamil Tigers were defeated in 2007.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa had called snap elections to win public approval of his development agenda and to answer the international critics of his campaign against the LTTE`s separatist war.
In the Sinhalese-dominated north central and south western provincial council, the ruling party won a total of 49 out of 77 seats.
However, the more keenly watched fight was in the multi- ethnic eastern provincial council, where the election had been billed as a test of the political inclination of the Tamils in the aftermath of a military end to their demand for self rule.
In the eastern provincial council, the UPFA emerged as the single largest party winning 14 seats in the 37-member council, while the TNA won 11 seats, and the UNP won 4 seats.
The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), that is in alliance with the rulian coalition at the Centre but fought the provincial election independently, won 7 seats. The ultra Sinhala nationalist National Freedom Front won a solitary seat in this province.
Some analysts and TNA activists attributed the below par
performance to low voter turnout in Tamil areas.
The TNA did well to come first in all Tamil dominated polling divisions except for Kalkudah in the Batticaloa district where the UPFA, in an upset, pushed the TNA to a second position.
The UPFA as expected bagged the Sinhala majority electorates in the province with the other Sinhala party the UNP finishing second.
Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, however, claimed that the results were a public endorsement of the government, and showed there was no justification for more power sharing in the eastern province.
The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, that finished third behind the UPFA and the TNA in yesterday`s eastern provincial council election, said it will now deliberate over its future political alliance to form a government in the province.
"The party high command would soon deliberate and decide over its future course of action", Nizam Kariappar the SLMC deputy secretary said.
Kariappar said the SLMC had recorded a decisive victory in the election by coming first in all four electorates of Muslim majority in the multi-ethnic province.
Analysts, however, said the SLMC was more likely to form a council administration with the ruling coalition of the President Rajapaksa than aligning with the opposition parties, TNA and UNP.
The UPFA coalition won 21 seats in the 33-member council in the north central province where the main opposition United National Party (UNP) won 11 seats, while the remaining one seat was conquered by the Marxist JVP.
The returns from the south western provincial council (Sabaragamuva) also indicated a comfortable win for the UPFA.
In the final analysis it was a convincing win for the ruling coalition as they grabbed the other two provinces inflicting a heavy defeat on the main opposition UNP.
The Rajapaksa government was hurt by the March resolution in the UN Human Rights Council. The US-moved resolution was adopted with Indian backing bringing to international focus the island`s human rights record.