Friday, December 7, 2001, Chandigarh, India





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UNP surges ahead in Lanka poll
K. Venkataramanan

Colombo, December 6
After seven years in the wilderness, Sri Lanka’s leading Opposition party surged towards a position of power, inflicting defeat on President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance in most electoral districts, but it was not yet clear if it would take absolute control of Parliament.

The right-wing United National Party (UNP) obtained 47.47 per cent of the votes after 80 per cent of the ballots cast in yesterday’s violence-hit poll had been counted, winning 10 out of 11 districts for which final results were available this evening.

The announcement of results was suspended this evening, pending a decision on districts affected by alleged malpractices, but the trends indicate that a UNP-led government may assume office soon.

The UNP is likely to end up close to an absolute majority after its vote percentage is translated into seats in the 225-member legislature, while the People’s Alliance, accounting for 39.03 per cent of the 8.35 million votes counted, could finish more than 20 seats behind.

Counting has been completed for 120 electorates out of 160. The UNP polled more votes than others in 89 of these electorates. In terms of seats, the UNP has won 43 from 11 districts, while the PA won 31. The Janatha Vimukti Peramuna has bagged five seats.

The Tamil National Alliance, a front of four Tamil parties, won three out of the five seats in the eastern Batticaloa district, while the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the People’s Alliance won a seat each.

Tamil people in the North and the East voted overwhelmingly for the pro-LTTE Tamil Nationalist Alliance, which is expected to complete a near sweep of the northern Jaffna peninsula and Vanni mainland, besides the eastern district of Batticaloa.

The Tamil Alliance is seen as a party that may extend crucial support to the UNP. If the latter falls short of a majority, its seats may come in handy as a bargaining tool.

Ms Kumaratunga asked her supporters to accept victory and defeat with equanimity. Her appeal may indicate a sober approach towards the UNP, in contrast to her pre-election utterances that had raised fears that she may use her substantial presidential powers to deadlock governance under a UNP regime.

The UNP leader, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe, has yet another opportunity to become Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, a post he held in 1993-94. PTIBack

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