Bandaranaike dynasty on the brink of victory

THE LEFT-WING Peoples' Alliance won most parliamentary seats in Sri Lanka's elections on Tuesday, but fell short of an outright majority. Both the alliance (PA) and its closest rival, the United National Party (UNP), were scrambling last night to secure support of the smaller ethnic parties to form a government.

After 17 years in opposition, the PA, led by Chandrika Kumaratunga, daughter of two former prime ministers, stood on the edge of victory over the autocratic UNP which she claimed had tried to assassinate her during last month's violent campaign.

Her party won 105 out of 225 parliamentary seats, while President D B Wijetunga's UNP took 94 seats. If Mrs Kumaratunga patches togther a majority among the Muslims, the Tamils and the far-left parties, it could be a weak and unstable government. A UNP government would be just as fragile. The President is expected to summon Mrs Kumaratunga to his residence today for consultations.

Authorities yesterday extended an island-wide curfew by 24 hours to avoid any violence arising from political uncertainty. In the capital, Colombo, where police and troops guard every major crossroad, the roads along the seafront are empty except for army jeeps. The precautions are to prevent Tamil separatists, who vowed to thwart the elections, from setting off bombs in the capital. More than 4,000 British holiday-goers are trapped by the curfew, most of them confined to seaside hotels.

Through an anomaly caused by the island's civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamil ethnic minority - which meant that 20,000 voters in the besieged Jaffna district determined the fate of 10 crucial seats - the third most powerful party in Sri Lanka is the Eelam Peoples' Democratic Party. It is more a paramilitary force, armed by the outgoing UNP-government, than a political party. Human rights monitors allege that the EPDP was used by the late President Premadasa to dispose of his enemies. Its revolutionary chief wears two pistols and likes to scare visitors by keeping a live grenade on his desk.

Mrs Kumaratunga is most likely to gain backing from the Muslim Congress, which won seven seats. She could win a majority of 113 with the Muslims' support, plus a few independent MPs and an ethnic party, the Tamil United Liberation Front. But the UNP is also courting the Muslims with the lure of cabinet portfolios. It is possible that Mr Wijetunga, using his leverage as President, will try by any means to finagle for his UNP another six-year term. Mr Wijetunga said yesterday he would choose as next prime minister the party leader who 'in his opinion' could best form a government.

The UNP's defeat came despite having the state machinery at its disposal. It also snatched the best party symbol - the elephant - while the PA was represented by a stiff-backed empty chair. More than 20 people died in campaign violence, nearly all members of the PA. But election day was calm. Opposition parties concede that the polling was impartial and fair.

Mrs Kumaratunga, 48, is a quick-witted woman who shied away from politics for as long as she could. Both her prime minister father, SWRD Bandaranaike, and then her husband were assassinated. It was only after the coaxing of her mother, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, that she returned to do battle against the UNP.

She remained the dutiful daughter until the last election campaign began. Her ailing 78-year-old mother was forced to leave for medical treatment in Singapore, and Mrs Kumaratunga emerged as the PA's best crowd-puller. She was more charismatic than her mother, and her fighter's instincts are more finely honed. She had earlier driven her brother, Anura, from the party, but he was snapped up by the UNP and made a cabinet minister.

Under pressure from the PA lieutenants, Mrs Bandaranaike named her daughter as acting leader only a week before elections. Then her son and another daughter tried to persuade her to reverse her decision. Mrs Kumaratunga was left dangling until a compromise was agreed that, if elected, her mother would stand for president. Although a family of wealthy landowners, the Bandaranaikes nationalised the tea estates and private industries in the 1970s. Mrs Kumaratunga learned her politics while studying in Paris. She speaks wistfully of fighting on the barricades during the 1968 student uprising in Paris, but her socialism now is diluted by free-market capitalism.

In a show of solidarity, her mother joined Mrs Kumaratunga to vote in a village near the family home. It was difficult to see either woman, since they were surrounded by bodyguards. Fanatical Tamil suicide bombers are a worry for all Sri Lankan politicians. Tamils killed not only the late president Ranasinghe Premadasa but also India's Rajiv Gandhi.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone