Sri Lanka Counts Votes in Parliamentary Elections

Counting is underway in Sri Lanka following the country's first parliamentary election since the end of the long civil war against Tamil separatists in the north. Election monitors have said voting across the country in Thursday's poll was largely peaceful amid heavy security, but turnout was believed to have been a record low, Aljazeera says.

SRI Lanka's ruling party has claimed victory in parliamentary polls, as counting showed them well ahead after a ballot marked by record low turnout and reports of voter intimidation. With more than a fifth of ballots counted, President Mahinda Rajapakse's United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) had secured 62.1 per cent of the vote, with the main opposition United National Party a distant second with 27.32 per cent, Herald Sun reports.

The government that wins control of the 225-member assembly for a six-year term will be tasked with extending economic expansion by bringing prosperity to the island's war-ravaged north and east and forging reconciliation with its Tamil minority. Rajapaksa won re-election as president in January by the biggest margin in 16 years after defeating the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

"Rajapaksa is seen as a leader who delivers on his promises," said Jehan Perera, director of the National Peace Council advocacy group in the capital, Colombo. "After ending the war, people are now looking at his promise to develop the country.", San Francisco Chronicle informs.

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