Sri Lanka`s ruling party heads for landslide in local polls

Sri Lanka held 1st local polls since the end of its long ethnic war in 2009.

Updated: Mar 18, 2011, 11:54 AM IST

Colombo: Sri Lanka`s ruling party was on Friday heading for a landslide victory in local polls, further strengthening President Mahinda Rajapaksa`s grip on power.

The ruling United People`s Freedom Alliance, led by Rajapaksa, has so far secured victories in 142 of the 164 councils for which results have been announced, election officials said on Friday.

Elections were held on Thursday for 235 local councils.

The United National Party, the main opposition, has so far secured victories in only eight councils while a Tamil-minority party has won 10 councils, mostly in the Eastern Province.

The United People`s Freedom Alliance has so far gained 55 percent of the vote against the United National Party`s 33 percent.

Local elections for 64 other councils were delayed because nomination papers have been challenged in the courts.

Elections for most of the councils in northern Sri Lanka, which saw heavy fighting as the civil war between separatist ethnic Tamil rebels and the government came to an end in 2009, were among those delayed because of the legal cases.

Rajapaksa, who won re-election in January last year and whose party secured a near-two-thirds majority in Parliament in April elections, has called on voters to give him another mandate to step up development work after the defeat of the rebels.

The polls` final results were expected later Friday.