Sri Lankan president’s governing coalition secures stunning victory in local polls |

Sri Lankan president’s governing coalition secures stunning victory in local polls

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition won an overwhelming victory in local elections, according to results released Friday that were seen as an endorsement of the president’s negotiations with Tamil Tiger rebels.The coalition led by President Mahinda Rajapakse won majorities in 212 out of 249 local councils, the government information department said. The main opposition group won 29 councils, and minor parties eight.Elections in the north and east of the island – where the rebels operate – were postponed to next September for security reasons.Tamil Tigers began a guerrilla war for a separate state in 1983, accusing the Sinhalese of discrimination against the Tamil ethnic minority. More than 65,000 people died in the bloodshed before a cease-fire was signed in 2002. The truce is now under threat because of rising violence.At least 166 people, including 87 government security personnel, have been killed since December in violence blamed mostly on the rebels.Both sides agreed last month in Geneva, Switzerland, to scale down violence and meet again for fresh talks.President Rajapakse said he wants to go ahead with the talks and come to a settlement. Other parties oppose concessions to the rebels.”Sri Lankans have clearly endorsed his policies, especially his handling of the peace process,” said Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council, an independent think tank.Controlling the locals councils, which deal with the day-to-day affairs in towns and clusters of villages, will provide Rajapakse – who heads a minority government in the federal Parliament – with a power base for future legislative and presidential elections.Remaining results for 17 councils were expected Saturday, the government said.Vail, Colorado

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