Free and fair elec­tions?

Southasia - - 13 -

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.”

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