4TH LEAD (adds Reuters, BBC comment)

Rajapakse wins Sri Lankan Presidency

[TamilNet, Friday, 18 November 2005, 07:56 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s hardline Prime Minister has been elected as country’s fifth President. Results released Friday by the election commission indicated Premier Mahinda Rajapakse had received almost 50.3% of the vote, with his main rival, opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, taking 48.4% in a hard fought race that has long been described as too close to call.

Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse
Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse wins the presidency of Sri Lanka on his birth day
UPFA supporters outside Election Department in Rajagiriya, Colombo
Security was tightened in Rajagiriya
UPFA senior ministers Mr. Susil Premajeyanth, Mr. Maitripala Srisena, Mr. Dinesh Gunawardene and the powerful Propaganda Secretary of the Sinhala nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Mr .Wimal Weerawanse were present in Election Department in Rajagiriya where the Election Commissioner Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake officially announced the results Friday at 1:30 p.m.

9,826,908 out of the 13,327,160 eligible voters had cast their ballots. Rajapkse polled 4,887,152 against Wickremesinghe’s 4,706,366.

The third candidate, Siritunga Jayasuriya, secured 35,425 votes (0.36%). 109,869 (1.12%) of the cast ballots were rejected.

The ballots were cast mainly in the island’s Sinhala dominated south and in parts of the multi-ethnic east. In the Tamil dominated north, there was a near-total boycott.

Reuters reported that the UNP has formally demanded a repeat of the polls in the Northeast, saying voters had been denied the vote by the boycott.

However, the BBC reporter Sanjoy Majumder in Colombo said it is clear that Wickremesinghe lost not just because of the Tamil boycott in the north and east of the island, but also because many Tamils in Colombo, where his support has been strong, did not vote for him.

The Western and Central Province are where Wickremesinghe, the United National Party (UNP) candidate, got the largest number of votes.

Rajapakse, the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) candidate, swept the votes in the country’s southern provinces. Wickremesinghe only secured one electorate in the south, in Galle district.

Political analysts said the polls reflected the deep divisions in Sri Lanka’s south, including the Sinhala community.

“This pattern in the south clearly indicates where the majority Sinhalese are divided. Upcountry Kandians voted against the southerner (Rajapakse),” a columnist with a leading Sinhala daily said. “Similarly, southern Sinhalese voted against the ‘westerner’ (Wickremesinghe).”

Inevitably, accusations of rigging in some areas have started to fly. UNP party workers were bitter about the Tamil boycott in the north which, they say, not only denied Wickremesinghe potential votes, but also facilitated electoral fraud on behalf of Rajapakse.

Even in the predominantly Tamil Batticaloa district, Rajapakse, despite campaigning on a hardline Sinhala platform, had apparently secured several thousand votes, they said.

In Jaffna, about only 8,500 people voted (of which 5,500 opted for Wickremesinghe and almost 2,000 for Rajapakse).

From the Kilinochchi district, only 1 person out of 66,596 voters – and he picked Wickremesinghe.

Election officials said over 701,000 people were eligible to vote, but pointed with many abroad or displaced, in the last Parliamentary elections only 250,000 voted.

The Jaffna electorate comprises Kayts, Vaddukoddai, Kankesanthurai, Manipay, Kopay, Udupiddy Point Pedro, Chavakacheri, Nallur, Jaffna and Kilinochchi towns.

In Vanni, comprising Mullaithivu, Mannar and Vavuniya, 85,874 of 250,386 voted. Wickremesinghe took 65,798 against Rajapakse’s 17,197.

In Trincomalee, where eligible voters are split 34.3%, 32,7% 26.4% into Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese, 154,000 of almost 239,000 cast their ballot, just over 92,000 for Wickremesinghe and almost 55,700 for Rajapakse.

The Trincomalee electorate comprises Mutur, Trincomalee and Seruwila.

In Batticaloa electorate, comprising Kalkudah, Pattiruppu and Batticaloa, 154,615 of the 318,728 eligible voters cast their ballots – 121,514 for Wickremesinghe and 28,836 for Rajapakse.

Of the eligible voters in the electorate, 76.4%, 23.5% and 0.25% are Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese.

In the Digamadulla electorate, comprising Amparai, Sammanthurai, Kalmunai and Pottuvil, 288,208 of 396,453 eligible voters cast their ballots – 159,198 for Wickremesinghe and 122,329 for Rajapakse.

Muslims, Sinhalese and Tamils comprise 41.7%, 39.3% and 18.8% respectively of the eligible voters in the Digamadulla electorate.

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