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Post-war election sees mixed results and low turnout



Latest update : 2009-08-09

Only 28% of the 125,000 eligible voters went to the polls for the first election since the Tamil Tigers were militarily defeated last May in the northern cities of Jaffna and Vanuniya. The pro-Tigers Tamil National Alliance won the city of Vavuniya.

AFP - A party that backs the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels won a council in elections near Sri Lanka's former war zone, results showed Sunday, in a sign that separatists still attract popular support.

The Tamil National Alliance, a front for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), took five seats on the Vavuniya municipal council, while President Mahinda Rajapakse's People's Alliance got only two.

However the president's party won 13 seats on the Jaffna municipal council, defeating the Tamil National Alliance, which took eight.

Saturday's elections -- the first in the area since government troops finally quashed the LTTE in May -- were seen as an attempt by the national administration to test its popularity since fighting ended.

Turnout among the 125,000 eligible voters was 28 percent in Tamil-majority Jaffna and Vavuniya.

"The Tamil National Alliance winning the Vavuniya council is a sign that there is democracy. It also shows that the election was free and fair," a senior government official told AFP.

The official, who declined to be named, said the results showed that the Tigers could have entered the political mainstream if they had agreed to the government's call to lay down arms and resume peace talks.

The Tamil National Alliance was formed by former rebels and moderate Tamil groups to contest the 2004 elections, securing 22 seats in the national parliament.

They supported the Tigers' armed campaign for a separate Tamil state, which came close to reality when the rebels gained control over one-third of the island before a major government offensive started in 2006.

Reporters and international observers were barred from the region during the vote, in line with many restrictions imposed by the government throughout the last stages of the war.

Despite the poor showing in Vavuniya, Rajapakse's party won a landslide at another local council which went to the polls on Saturday in the Sinhalese-majority central part of the island.

In the Uva provincial council, his party won 25 seats out of 34 and reduced the main opposition United National Party (UNP) to just seven seats.

The government had said a vote for Rajapakse's ruling party was an endorsement of his military campaign against the separatists and the ending of decades-old ethnic bloodshed.

Widespread international concern was voiced over the number of civilians killed during the fighting, while aid groups now fear for the welfare of 300,000 Tamils held in the state-run camps.

The Tigers' new leader, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, was detained in Malaysia on Wednesday and flown to Sri Lanka for questioning by the government.

Pathmanathan, who was based outside the country, had been attempting to rebuild the movement from overseas after its founding chief Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed in the final stages of fighting in May.

Date created : 2009-08-09