Polls to secure Rajapaksa’s hold on power
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, accused by critics of stifling dissent, looks set to consolidate his hold on power in Parliamentary polls this week despite protests from Buddhist monks.
Rajapaksa called Thursday’s vote two months ahead of schedule after his thumping re-election in January and his Freedom Alliance party is in line for an easy majority in the 225-member national legislature, according to analysts.
Nearly 20,000 troops have been put on alert to reinforce police as polls have often been soured by violence in Sri Lanka. In the first death of the campaign, unknown gunmen shot a ruling party activist at the weekend.
The opposition united behind a common candidate, former army chief Sarath Fonseka, for the presidential poll, but it has now split — giving Rajapaksa’s party a clearer run. “The government has no issue winning the election, but their challenge is to increase the majority,” said political commentator Victor Ivan, referring to the 126 seats currently held by the ruling party.
Fonseka is now under detention and faces another hearing in an ongoing court martial process today that could see him jailed for allegedly engaging in politics while in uniform and making illegal army procurements.
The opposition alliance, which is backed by the monks, has urged Fonseka’s release.