Sri Lanka ruling coalition sweeps local elections

Colombo: Sri Lanka`s ruling UPFA won a landslide securing 21 of 23 seats in local elections marred by violence that killed at least four people, including an adviser to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The United People`s Freedom Alliance headed by Rajapaksa won control of 21 of the 23 councils which went to polls yesterday, official results announced today showed.

The main opposition United National Party (UNP) managed only to retain the Colombo Municipal Council, considered the most prestigious, while losing their seat in the central town of Kandy which they had held for nearly 60 years.

The main Muslim party, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), a partner of the ruling coalition secured the eastern province`s Kalmunai municipality in the polls, seen by many as a mid-term test for Rajapaksa.

This was the last phase of the staggered local elections which began in March.

The ruling coalition swept the board in both earlier rounds as well.

Commenting on the ruling party`s victory, Senior Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said it was a further endorsement of President Rajapaksa`s leadership.

Rajapaksa maintains his popularity, which he gained after he won the military conflict with LTTE in May 2009.

However, yesterday`s polls were marred by violence that claimed at least four lives and left several people injured.

Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, an aide of Rajapaksa and a former ruling party lawmaker, was killed in a shootout following clashes between two factions of the UPFA in Kotikawatta, a north Colombo suburb. Three others, including a bodyguard of Premachandra, were also killed in the shootout.

Among those wounded was Duminda Silva, an MP who suffered serious head injuries.