Tuesday, May 6, 2008

High stakes for Rajapaksa in Eastern Province polls

Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province will, for the first time in 20 years, hold provincial council elections on May 10.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) is a front-runner, has high stakes in the elections. Rajapaksa has to win to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the nation and the international community.

By all accounts, the contest is neck and neck. But political pundits believe that the UPFA and its ally, the Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP), will likely win. Indeed, the UPFA-TMVP combine is very strong, but it is also feared that it may use every stratagem and resource to get the desired result, given the importance of the poll to it.

If Rajapaksa wins, he will have proved that he has the support of all the three ethnic communities in the East for his project to rid the province of the Tamil Tiger terrorists and separatists, and to restore democracy.

Though predominantly Tamil-speaking, the Eastern province comprising the three districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai, is ethnically mixed. The Muslims constitute 39 per cent, the Tamils 36 per cent, and the Sinhalese, 25 per cent.

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