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War on terror vote won by MR

* UPFA sweeps all 27 electorates
* CWC, UPF fail to gain single slot
* Kick start to UNP reforms
* JVP reduced to 3 councillors, no representation in Polonnaruwa

The SLFP-led ruling coalition swept Saturday’s elections to North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces bagging all 27 electorates in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Ratnapura and Kegalle districts.

The UNP and the Opposition vowed to bring down the government to its knees in the run up to the election against the backdrop of the US Ambassador calling on the Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake to ensure a free and fair poll.

The government secured the NCP by polling 107,910 votes in Polonnaruwa and 199,547 in Anuradhapura districts. The UNP obtained 63,265 votes in Polonnaruwa and 142,019 in Anuradhapura districts while the JVP was placed a distant third by gaining 7,381 votes in Polonnaruwa and 19,357 in Anuradhapura districts. The government won 20 slots (including two bonus seats) in the NCP council against 12 secured by the UNP while the JVP had one.

The Sabaragamuwa Province elected 25 government members (including two bonus seats) against seven UNP and two JVP. The government polled 260,218 and 212,571 votes in Ratnapura and Kegalle districts respectively while the UNP managed 191,996 and 154,325 votes in Ratnapura and Kegalle districts. The JVP polled a mere 19,068 votes in the entire province.

The final result was even better than what the government anticipated, UPFA General Secretary Susil Premjayanth told The Island, calling the

landslide victory an overwhelming endorsement of the ongoing military campaign to defeat the LTTE. "It was a referendum on the war against terror," he said. The vast majority of people also appreciated the development work undertaken by the government despite spiralling defence costs. The increase in the price of paddy, tea and rubber, too, contributed to the victory, he said.

Premjayanth said the recent break-up of their relationship with the JVP which caused the Marxist Party go it alone had absolutely no impact on the end result. The bottom line was the government could comfortably face any election without the JVP, he said, asserting the victory would give a turbo boost to the war effort. The people’s wish to see the eradication of the LTTE would be met, he said. The government political-military strategy was on track, he said.

Although the Opposition was blind to the battlefield success, the people were aware of the political leadership given by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his unwavering commitment to an outright military victory over the LTTE.

SLFP General Secretary and Minister Maithripala Sirisena said that attempts to attack the government over its relationship with the breakaway LTTE faction, too, failed to help the Opposition. "Our decision to field a TMVP candidate on the UPFA list in Polonnaruwa paid off," he told The Island, asserting the UNP and the JVP wouldn’t recover from this humiliating defeat.

UNP sources said that the latest defeat would breathe life into their efforts to cause far reaching changes in the leadership. A damaging leadership dispute preceded the UNP election campaign with a section of the party desperately trying even to thwart nomination of Janaka Perera and the party’s first choice for Sabaragamuwa Upul Shantha Sannasgala.

The CWC which contested the two provinces on its own despite being part of the Rajapaksa administration had failed to secure a single seat while the Up country People’s Front which contested Ratnapura District, too, ended up without a single seat.

The day before the election, CWC heavyweight R. Yogarajan told The Island, that they would keep their options open. Expressing confidence in increasing their strength at the councils, he indicated they would co-operate with the winning party. The JVP which had 18 elected members in the previous councils had been reduced to three, one each representing Anuradhapura, Kegalle and Ratnapura districts. It had lost representation in the Polonnaruwa district.

The SLMC contested both provinces on the UNP ticket. The Sri Lanka Ulamas Muslim Party said overwhelming victory for the UPFA in areas where Muslims were living was evidence that the community had rejected the UNP-SLMC coalition. Its leader M.Mubark Abdul Majeed asserted the people had rejected the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe and Rauf Hakeem.

Premjayanth and Sirisena pointed out there had been no incidents of violence on the day of the polling.

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), too, acknowledged this. The CMEV formed in 1997 by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Coalition against Political Violence as an independent and non-partisan organisation to monitor the incidence of election related violence. Currently, CMEV is made up of CPA, FMM and INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre.

The CMEV said, "… apart from a few serious incidents and in comparison with previous provincial elections, polling day was relatively incident free. The expectations of violence that were based on the incidence of violence in the last three days of the campaign in particular, were fortunately not met. We acknowledge the positive impact of the announcement by the Election Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake that he would order a re-poll in areas where violence and malpractice were confirmed to have occurred, as well as his decision to strengthen law enforcement in the areas that recorded high levels of violence throughout the campaign. We also acknowledge the positive impact of the actions of the police in those areas where its presence and commitment was reinforced."

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