Colombo: Sri Lanka’s strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa staged a political comeback on Friday as his party registered a landslide victory in the twice-postponed general elections, according to the final results released by the elections commission.
The official results declared showed that the Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP) alone had won 145 seats and with its allies have 150 seats, a two thirds majority in the 225-member parliament.
The party led by the prime minister won all but four of the 22 electoral districts on offer. The victory margins in the South, dominated by the majority Sinhala community, were in the high 60 percent mark in most areas. The party polled 6.8 million votes at 59.9 percent.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first world leaders to congratulate Rajapaksa on the outcome of the elections and said the two sides will work together to further advance all areas of bilateral cooperation and to take their special ties to ever newer heights.
“Thank you PM @narendramodi for your congratulatory phone call. With the strong support of the people of #SriLanka, I look forward to working with you closely to further enhance the long-standing cooperation between our two countries. Sri Lanka & India are friends & relations,” Rajapaksa tweeted.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who won the November presidential election on the SLPP ticket, had called a snap election six months ahead of the schedule.
In the parliamentary election, he was seeking 150 seats mandatory to execute constitutional changes in the main to repeal the 19th amendment to the Constitution which had curbed presidential powers while strengthening the role of parliament.
The biggest casualty from the result was the United National Party (UNP) of former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The UNP managed to win only one seat and that too came thanks to the cumulative votes polled nationally. The country’s grandest political party failed to win a single seat from any of the 22 districts.
Its leader and a four-time prime minister was unseated for the first time since he entered parliament in 1977. Wickremesinghe failed to win from Colombo district as his party finished fourth in most constituencies.
The UNP only polled 249,435 votes or just 2 per cent of the vote and was relegated to the fifth position nationally.
Wickremesinghe’s former deputy and the presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa, who had broken away from the UNP to form his own party SJB, has done well by winning 55 seats with its main Muslim party ally bagging it the solitary district win in the eastern port district of Trincomalee.
The SJB polled 2.7 million or 23 percent and has emerged the second largest party, according to the results. The main Tamil party TNA did not fare too well as their parliamentary representation saw a reduction for a total of 10 seats from the 16 it had won the last time.
The party managed to win three districts in the Tamil-dominated North and polled 327,168 votes or 2.82 percent, the results showed.
The Marxist JVP despite winning only three seats from their six in the previous election retained its position as the third force in the country by pushing the former ruling party UNP to the fourth and in many areas to even fifth and sixth places. They polled 445,958 or 3.84 percent of the total vote.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 2 March dissolved parliament, six months ahead of the schedule, and called for snap polls on 25 April. However, the election commission in mid-April postponed the elections by nearly two months to 20 June due to the coronavirus outbreak in the island nation.
In June, the commission informed the apex court that the polls cannot be held on 20 June because of the coronavirus pandemic and the new date was decided following a unanimous decision reached between the members of the commission.
The election commission held several mock polls to put into practice health guidelines and even extended the poll time by one hour in view of the pandemic.
There are over 16 million eligible voters in the country. The 5 August poll will elect a 225-member parliament for a five-year term.