Sri Lanka: PM Ranil Wickremesinghe declares victory over Rajapaksa!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Sri Lanka’s parliamentary election was too close to call and final results were not out yet but on the basis of the outcomes declared so far for most seats, the sitting prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s, 66, has declared victory over the country’s former strongman leader Rajapaksa who was seeking a political come-back eight months after losing a presidential vote.
A total of 196 seats are up for grabs in multi-member constituencies with a further 29 to be allocated by proportional representation in the 225-seat chamber. Sri Lanka’s parliamentary elections have produced a hung parliament, putting to rest former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s comeback bid, with the coalition headed by rival Ranil Wickresinghe emerging as the single largest political grouping. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) and its front for good governance (UNFGG) have edged past the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) of which Rajapaksa was the candidate.
Any party or coalition must win at least 113 seats to form a government. With results from 18 of Sri Lanka’s 22 districts in, Wickremesinghe’s UNP had won about 105 seats in the 225-seat parliament. In results released so far from the vote, ex-strongman Mahinda Rajapakse’s United People’s Freedom Alliance has won 61 of the 225 seats, while Wickremesinghe’s United National Party has taken 68. Observers said that results from the seats still to be announced are expected to favor Wickremesinghe.
The ruling United National Party (UNP) was likely to fall just short of an outright majority but Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should still command enough support to form a stable government. “I offer my grateful thanks to all parties and individuals who worked untiringly during the election period to ensure victory for the people,” Wickremesinghe said in a statement today. “Let us together build a civilized society, build a consensual government and create a new country.” Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a statement that the majority of the people had endorsed what he called his government’s good governance and consensual politics.
If confirmed, the outcome would be a triumph for President Maithripala Sirisena, who beat his former ally Rajapaksa in a presidential vote in January and called early parliamentary polls to secure a stronger mandate for reforms. Sirisena defected from Rajapaksa’s government on the eve of presidential poll held in January and formed an alliance with Wickremesinghe to defeat his leader in the presidential election.
President Sirisena, who became UPFA leader after Rajapakse’s defeat, has vowed that he would invoke his executive powers not appoint him as prime minister. However, Rajapaksa has been democratically made not eligible for the PM post now. His UPFA coalition is likely to get some 90 seats, well short of the majority number of 113 in the 225-seat Parliament.
Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya said the vote had been one of the most peaceful in Sri Lanka’s history. About 70 per cent of the 15 million registered voters voted in Monday’s elections.
Former president, who pursued dictatorial policies, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s attempt to stage a comeback in Sri Lanka’s general election has thus ended in defeat as results showed the alliance that toppled him making decisive gains. Rajapaksa was Sri Lanka’s president for nine years until his January 8 election defeat. Defeat for Rajapaksa will keep Sri Lanka on a non-aligned foreign policy course and loosen its ties with China, which during his rule pumped billions of dollars into turning the Indian Ocean Island into a maritime outpost.
Both USA and India, jointly focusing on Asia pivot, are happy that Sri Lanka is slowly abandoning China.
Since his surprise victory over his former mentor, Sirisena has struggled to impose his authority over his United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) party and was powerless to prevent Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), from standing as one of its candidates.
Rajapaksa was hailed a warrior king for defeating Tamil Tiger separatists to end a nearly 26-year civil war. But he is accused of using his popularity to take control of parliament, the courts, the armed forces and all government institutions. He was also accused of widespread human rights abuses and of suppressing freedoms.
Rajapaksa is accused of war crimes during his autocratic family misrule, targeting the Tamil minority population, and he seems to be pushing for axing the case altogether but president Sirisena is eager to deliver justice to the Tamil populations- the prime target of the Rajapaksa regime – by bringing the state culprits, including Rajapaksa, to justice.
Lankan Tamils look forward to early justice!