Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa family heads for huge election win

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COLOMBO, Aug 6, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – The party of Sri Lanka’s ruling
Rajpaksa brothers headed for a landslide win Thursday in a
parliamentary election set to strengthen their grip on power.

With more than 60 percent of the 11.3 million ballots counted,
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) had
57 percent of the votes.

Official results showed that the party had secured 72 out of the 98
seats decided and was headed for a two thirds majority in the
225-member parliament that would allow changes to the constitution.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Twitter that “results so far
indicate an excellent victory for the SLPP.”

His older brother said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had
already congratulated him for his victory that followed Gotabaya’s win
in the November presidential polls.

In a Twitter statement, the prime minister said he looked forward
to working “closely” with Modi and added that the two countries are
“friends and relations”.

Since Gotabaya won the presidential election, Sri Lankans have
largely embraced the family’s populist platform.

They have ridden a nationalist wave that followed Easter bombings
in 2019 by Muslim radicals which killed 279 people.

The brothers are viewed as heroes by the country’s Sinhalese
majority for orchestrating a ruthless military campaign to end a
decades-long Tamil separatist war in 2009 when Mahinda was president.

The Rajapaksa family is now seeking to expand its mandate with
Wednesday’s legislative polls.

-Super majority-

Early results showd that a splintered opposition was decimated.
Former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was left without a single
seat with 60 percent of the ballots were counted. He had 106 seats in
the outgoing parliament.

A breakaway party from Wikremesinghe’s headed by the son of
assassinated president Ranasinghe Premadasa, Sajith, got 20 percent of
the vote and was a distant second in the hustings.

Final results for the coronavirus-delayed election were expected
late Thursday.

Private surveys as well as Rajapaksa’s party had projected they
will get about 135 seats, just short of a two-thirds super-majority
needed to roll back constitutional changes made by the previous
administration that limit the president’s powers.

“We are confident of getting two thirds, but even if we don’t get
it at the polls, there are ways of getting it through parliament,” the
prime minister said Wednesday.
However, unofficial results suggested that the ruling party would
cross 150 seats when the final results are declared.

Wednesday’s election — postponed twice due to the epidemic and
held with strict social distancing measures — saw a 70 percent
turnout from the 16 million-strong electorate.

Huge economic challenges await the new parliament. On Wednesday,
official figures showed economic growth fell 1.6 percent in the first
quarter of this year while the Asian Development Bank forecast a 6.1
percent contraction of the economy this year.