Sri Lanka’s ruling party takes early lead in parliamentary elections



The ruling party in Sri Lanka has taken an early lead in the parliamentary elections, as results started coming in after a delay in counting due to the strict health guidelines that were followed, officials said on Thursday.

Early results show that incumbent Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Party (Sri Lanka Peoples’ Party) was leading in Wednesday’s poll.

With more than half a million votes counted and released officially, the SLPP were leading with 60 per cent of the vote, with the closest rival party securing only 17 per cent.

Unofficial results also showed that Rajapaksa’s party was in the lead in most of the 160 constituencies.

Rajapaksa is the brother of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and a strong mandate in parliament would bolster the powers of the president.

Elections are being held for 225 members of parliament for the next five years.

Earlier in the day officials started the counting process after holding back the ballot boxes overnight following Wednesday’s poll.

The process was delayed in order to follow strict health procedures due to fears of the spread of coronavirus.

The elections had been postponed twice since April due to the pandemic, but Sri Lanka’s government has kept the situation under control so far, with fewer than 3,000 cases and 11 deaths to date.

Polling ended without any major incidents of violence and with a turnout of 71 per cent, the chairman of the Elections Commission, Mahinda Deshapriya, said.

More than 16.2 million people were registered to vote.

The voting rate was lower than the previous parliamentary elections in 2015, where turnout was 77 per cent.

However, President Rajapaksa said the number of voters was a show of confidence in the government over its efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Heavy rain and winds has caused damage to more than 300 houses, damaged power lines and left trees fallen, but did not lead to delays in vote counting in any of the centres.

The main opposition United National Party, led by former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, has been plagued by divisions.

Most of its previously popular candidates contested under the banner of a separate party, known as the United People’s Front (SJB) and led by former presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa.

Premadasa’s SJB was currently trailing behind Rajapaksa’s party, according to preliminary results.

Meanwhile, the president announced that the new parliament will meet on Aug. 20.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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