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Lanka leader promises peace after poll win
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 11 - 04 - 2010

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse, whose party cemented his political dominance by winning a majority in parliamentary elections, promised Saturday to bring peace and prosperity to a nation battered by decades of civil war.
Rajapakse said in a statement that his party's victory in Thursday's elections encourages the government's policies on “peace and reconciliation, reconstruction, greater infrastructure development.” “We are humbled by the size of the repeated mandates given by the people and pledge to respond, in full measure, to the trust placed in us,” he said.
The US embassy said in a statement that the election victory provides Rajapaksa a mandate to address power sharing and human rights issues. Rajapaksa has yet to follow up on a promise made after last year's defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels to discuss a power-sharing deal with the Tamils, more than 200,000 of whom remain displaced by the war.
Rajapakse won re-election as president in polls three months ago, riding on his popularity following the end of the decades-long civil war. His party held a majority in the outgoing Parliament. With 45 seats still undeclared Saturday, Rajapaksa's United People's Freedom Alliance had secured 117 seats in Thursday's election enough for a simple majority in the 225-seat Parliament and to form a government. It is uncertain whether Rajapakse's coalition can secure the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution which could open the way for an amendment to allow the president to serve beyond the end of his second term in 2017.
Two of Rajapakse's brothers and a son were candidates for Parliament. But he is a hero to many ethnic Sinhalese for defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels last year following a civil war that killed 80,000-100,000 people.The largest opposition party, the United National Front, won 46 seats in the vote.
UNF leader and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe conceded defeat Saturday and said he will not step down as party leader despite being blamed for a series of election losses. “This time, a large number of people didn't vote because they didn't have faith in the system,” Wickremesinghe told reporters, adding that they feared election fraud. The opposition has challenged the result of the presidential election in court, alleging its votes were stolen by the ruling party. A party of the ethnic Tamil minority received 12 seats from its stronghold in the northeast, the Election Department said. Results for 16 seats were withheld pending a revote after reports of intimidation and fraud, and 29 slots are allotted to parties according to their percentage of votes gained.

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