Sri Lanka: Tamils abstain from poll

Issue 

The ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won nearly two thirds of the seats in the Sri Lankan parliament at the April 8 national elections. The exact figure is uncertain, because the result in two electorates was annulled because of polling day violence.

Re-voting will occur in these areas on April 20.

The UPFA is a coalition of parties supporting President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was re-elected at the January 26 presidential election.

The election result reflected the island's ethnic conflict. The UPFA's votes came mainly from members of the island's Sinhalese majority, whereas most Tamils either voted for other parties or abstained.

The voter participation rate averaged 55% across the island, compared with about 75% in previous elections. In Tamil areas, the turnout was extremely low. For example Jaffna district had a 23% turnout.

Tamil National Alliance spokesperson Suresh Premachandran said the result showed Tamils had no confidence in the political system. He said Tamils had "lost faith in everybody because they believed nobody would do anything for them".

The TNA is expected to win 13 seats in this election, compared with 22 in 2004. This decline was mainly due to the high abstention rate among Tamils, but there were allegations of electoral fraud committed by the UPFA.

The All Ceylon Tamil Congress, a recent split from the TNA, which it accuses of abandoning the struggle for Tamil self-determination, did not win any seats. It appears Tamils dissatisfied with the TNA generally abstained, rather than voting for a more militant alternative.

In the Sinhalese areas, the UPFA easily defeated its two main rivals, the United National Party and the Democratic National Alliance.

However retired general Sarath Fonseka, a candidate for the DNA, won a seat from his prison cell. He was arrested on charges of corruption and carrying out political activity in the army after he challenged Rajapaksa in the presidential elections.

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