Sri Lankan president tightens grip on power with poll victory

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The Independent Online

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's ruling coalition has won Sri Lanka's first post-war parliamentary elections, further consolidating his political dominance after the battlefield defeat of the Tamil Tigers last year.

The victory follows Mr Rajapaksa's re-election in presidential polls three months ago. Despite opposition allegations the president wants to monopolise power, he is a hero to many of the country's Sinhalese majority hoping for a new era of development and reconciliation.

The Election Department said Mr Rajapaksa's United People's Freedom Alliance has so far won 117 of the 225 seats contested in Thursday's polls. Its tally was expected to rise. It remains unclear whether his coalition can secure the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution, which could open the way for the president to serve beyond the end of his second term in 2017. The closest rival, the United National Front, has so far won 46 seats.

An opposition party led by the defeated presidential candidate and former army chief Sarath Fonseka – currently awaiting a court-martial – won five seats, including one for Mr Fonseka.

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