COLOMBO: The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) was cruising to a big victory in the island nation’s parliamentary election, early results received on Thursday evening showed.

The SLPP, established by former president and current Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers three years ago, has now emerged as the kingmaker in contemporary Lankan politics, decimating the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). The party neither contested last year’s presidential election nor Wednesday’s parliamentary election.

The United National Party (UNP), headed by former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, saw it making history by not even being able to get a handful of votes in almost every district. According to statistics made available by the elections commission, the SLPP had bagged 60.92 percent of the votes, winning 13 seats while SJB of Premadasa had obtained 22.61 percent, winning three seats.

The Marxist Jathika Jana Balawegaya (the JVP) had secured 4.01 percent and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) 2.71 percent of votes while the percentage for the UNP main group under Ranil Wickremesinghe had managed to get only one percent of the count.

Sri Lanka went to the polls in the Covid19 backdrop, recording a 71 percent voter turnout to elect a new parliament, holding its general election after two failed attempts in April and June this year.

The new parliament will meet on Aug 20.

Covid-19 success

Sri Lanka’s success in curbing the Covid19 threat and bringing the current number of patients to around 300 is being regarded as one of the major achievements of the SLPP administration, headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Analysts point out that this is likely to have strongly worked in their favour in the eyes of the voters, in a backdrop where the rest of South Asia, is reeling with daily soaring numbers of patients recording disastrous economic impact.

A total of 7,452 candidates contested for seats in the 225-member parliament. The ruling SLPP of the Rajapaksas is expecting an ambitious two- thirds majority, the lack of which has been been the bane of Sri Lankan politics as without it, the victor is forced to negotiate with smaller parties.

The polls have been hailed as peaceful notably from the opposing UNP affiliated camp. Former UNP minister Mangala Samaraweera, a severe critic of the Rajapaksa administration, who chose not to contest the polls took to Twitter to praise the peaceful nature of the voting and the non involvement of the military.

“Polling centres were conducted very efficiently yesterday; victory for civilian efficiency without involving the military. Bouquet to the elections commission, the civil service, health authorities and the police who conducted election even better than in pre C19 times,’ Samaraweera said.

Meanwhile, the People’s Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL) Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachch declared the election as being peaceful overall with no major incidents although the organisation said the total number of election law violations stood at 4,215 cases and many of them related to promoting candidates after the time to do so had lapsed according to election regulations.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2020