Free and fair elections?
In the last and final wave of local government elections, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s coalition party won 21 out of 23 councils, illustrating that he and his ruling coalition still maintain strong support in Sri Lanka, despite rumors of deadlocks and cracks. However, the ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance lost the most important council, the city of Colombo, to the United National Party. The UNP is clearly more popular amongst the city’s large Muslim and Tamil population, constituting close to 70 percent of the capitals’ residents, as well as the minority-dominated North and East regions.
While the local elections may have been concluded, international electoral committees have claimed that the elections were not free and fair as the ruling party employed state apparatus to further and promote its own agenda. Violence also sparked during the process, killing a presidential advisor and his bodyguard and seriously injuring his rival who remains in intensive care. Party supporters continued to burn vehicles and engaged in violent conflict. Political gang violence was also common. However, the Sri Lankan media downplayed the situation and did not broadcast any such developments or consequent arrests. Speaking on the electoral violence, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) stated: “This violent conflict between two prominent members of the ruling regime points to the type of politics prevailing in the country.”