Colombo: Two opposition lawmakers in Sri
Lanka defected to the ruling party on Thursday, bringing President
Mahinda Rajapakse closer to altering the constitution to allow
him to retain power.
The two MPs, both from the minority Tamil community,
joined the United People`s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by
Rajapakse, who oversaw the military offensive in which troops
defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels last year.
Rajapakse won a second presidential term in January
elections and consolidated his power in parliamentary
elections in April.
After the defections, his ruling alliance was just four
seats short of the two-thirds majority needed to change the
constitution to allow him to stand for a third term in office.
Three other legislators are already informally backing
the government and are expected to defect soon.
Rajapakse has strengthened his grip on power since
victory over the Tigers last May brought to an end to decades
of bloody civil war.
Several of his family hold key positions within the
government, and he has repeatedly denied crushing political
dissent on the island.
Sri Lanka`s key aid donors, including the United States
and Japan, have pushed Rajapakse to enact political reform and
to share power with minority ethnic Tamils.