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    » 05/12/2008, 00.00

    SRI LANKA

    Eastern provincial elections: Rajapakse’s coalition wins amid fraud

    Melani Manel Perera

    In the first local elections in the eastern provinces in 20 years the ruling party alliance wins. For Sri Lanka’s president this is a sign of popular support for his anti-terrorism policies. But opposition parties and independent observers complain about irregularities and widespread intimidations.

    Colombo (AsiaNews) – Elections to provincial councils in eastern Sri Lanka were only a “fraud” which President Mahinda Rajapakse’s ruling coalition used to impose itself on its adversaries using “violence and intimidation,” this according to Nimalka Fernando, head of an elections monitoring organisation called the Campaign for Free and fair Elections (CAFFE).

    For CAFFE well as other groups and opposition political parties these elections were “manipulated” to consolidate the stranglehold of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and the controversial Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) party.

    For the first time in 20 years voters in mixed Sinhalese, Tamil and Musims Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee cast their ballot to choose among 1,300 candidates to the local provincial council. The UPFA took 20 of the 37 seats.

    The elections were made possible by government forces’ takeover of the area last year after being under Tamil Tiger rebel control for years.

    For some observers these elections represent a first attempt by the central government to institute limited political devolution to meet Tamil demands for autonomy.

    Rajapakse’s Sinhalese-controlled central government wants to transfer power to the TMVP, a Tamil-dominated party. However, the latter is more like an armed militia than a political party. It was established by a Tamil Tiger faction that broke away in 2004 and joined the government in the fight against its former comrades. But the TMVP is accused of murders, abductions and recruiting child soldiers.

    In announcing his party’s victory President Rajapakse said the results show popular support for government policies in agriculture and in the fight against terrorism.

    But the opposition United National Party and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress have complained about widespread election fraud and reject the results.

    CAFFE has reported 175 complaints of irregularities, including 26 cases of physical assault and 35 cases of threats.

    The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and the People’s Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL) have reported similar findings.

    The latter has reported that election observers were not given access to 21 polling stations and that hundreds of voters have complained about physical and verbal intimidations.

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    See also

    22/08/2008 SRI LANKA
    Amid violence and intimidations two Sri Lankan provinces go to the polls
    Tomorrow voters in Sabaragamuwa and North Central provinces will cast their ballots. The Elections Commission reports more than 150 attacks against candidates and parties in the last few weeks. The Congress of Religions calls for “free and fair” elections.

    23/01/2010 SRI LANKA
    International observers to monitor January 26 vote
    Sri Lanka to elect president in a climate of increasing violence. More than 700 incidents during the election campaign and at least 4 dead. An international commission will visit the Asian nation during polling to prevent fraud and violence.

    01/04/2010 SRI LANKA
    Leaders of all Sri Lankan religions committed to holding free and peaceful elections
    An Interfaith Coalition, which brings together representatives of the four main religions, calls on all candidates and citizens to act without violence in the elections on 8 April. The joint commitment to ensure a free vote.

    04/03/2008 SRI LANKA
    Election in Batticaloa a foregone conclusion
    NGOs want to stop the 10 March local elections, claiming that voters are being intimidated and that the poll will only strengthen the central government’s hold over the area and militarise the local administration. The Elections Commission has however dismissed all the accusations.

    08/04/2010 SRI LANKA
    Shadows and irregularities cloud Sri Lanka’s "free elections"
    The supervisory committees denounce censorship in the media and violence in various parts of the country. President receives support from TV astrologers. Leading personalities from Catholic and secular world express doubts over the vote. Archbishop of Colombo: protect multiculturalism and protect minorities.



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