Rajapaksa claims easy victory in general elections

Colombo: President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday claimed that his coalition will form a "stable government" after the April 8 Sri Lankan parliamentary polls, in which an opposition party has fielded ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka.

Addressing his party candidates, Rajapaksa reminded them that the people had kept faith with the United People Freedom Alliance on a continued basis since 1994.

"We never subjugated the path of democracy. We did not believe in alternative routes and did not mislead the people by holding bogus referendums. This is why the people trusted us and continues to trust us. You should ensuere its continuity," the state-owned Daily News quoted him as saying.

"In line with people's expectations, the UPFA will form a stable government after the Parliamentary elections," Rajapaksa said.

Campaigning has already begun for the crucial polls, which are being held more than two months after the January 26 Presidential election in which incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa defeated Fonseka, who was the candidate of the joint opposition.

Fonseka on February 26 filed nomination papers as a candidate of a new opposition alliance for the April 8 Parliamentary poll, which is set to witness a three-cornered fight also involving the ruling UPFA and former premier Ranil Wickremesinghe's UNF.

He made these observations at the President's House in North Central Anuradhapura town after the candidates of the coalition took a pledge before Rajapaksa to commit themselves to a free and fair election.

"Following religious observances of all faiths held in Anuradhapura, all the UPFA candidates, governors and chief ministers of all provinces gathered at the President's House there and gave this pledge together with President Mahinda Rajapaksa," the Presidential secretariat said.

The religious observances followed the ceremony at President's House signalling the UPFA campaign launch for the general elections, where Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka and all UPFA candidates participated, it said.

The UPFA had always kept faith and had taken steps to uphold the people?s franchise, he said.

The UPFA, the President said, is a combination of many political parties and derived strength from its diversity.

The President said the UPFA on this occasion was contesting all electorates from Dondra head to Point Pedro.

The President however cautioned the candidates not to give false promises or get embroiled in bitter battles in search for preferential votes to get elected, the newspaper said.

"Tell the truth. You can take a leaf out of the Mahinda Chinthana (development programme) in this regard," he added.

The President while emphasising that the people's free will should prevail, cautioned that any breach of discipline would be dealt with severely by the party General Secretary.

Rajapaksa called on the candidates not to force their will on the people, but instead give due respect to the public opinion and take examples from that.

He said the elected candidates should represent the public opinion and should give voice to it within Parliament.

President Rajapaksa also cautioned the candidates not to seek extra comforts or elevate themselves to a higher pedestal at the expense of public vote, the newspaper said.

Nominations closed late last month and candidates have now commenced their campaigning.

There are 7358 candidates in the fray from 24 Political parties and 310 Independent groups who are vying for 196 seats in the Seventh Parliament.

Of the total 225 seats in the Unicameral Sri Lankan Parliament, 29 seats fall under National list (of parties) quota.

As many as 43 nominations of 37 Independent groups and a political party for several districts were rejected by the Election Commission.

In comparison to the last General Election, a high number of Independent groups are in the field this time around.