Daily Archives: April 17, 2010

Sri Lanka 2010: Preliminary results

Sri Lanka voted on April 8 to renew all 225 seats in the Sri Lankan Parliament, an election held six years after the 2004 legislative elections and a bit more than two months after the January 26 presidential election. These are the first legislative elections since the end of the 30-year civil war with Tamil rebels in the north and east of the island off the coast of India.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister is less powerful than the President, but the 2004 legislative elections and the victory of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s left-leaning United People’s Freedom Alliance (which includes the Sri Lankan Freedom Party, an old Sinhalese left-nationalist party) over the incumbent centre-right United National Front led by then-Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe signaled both a shift within the island’s Sinhalese majority to a tougher stance against the Tamil rebels but also Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election as President over Ranil Wickremasinghe the following year, in 2005. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s UPFA has reaped the benefits of the defeat of the LTTE in 2009, and voters thanked him in January with a crushing 58-40 defeat of his main opponent, former General Sarath Fonseka, then standing for the UNF in an attempt to prevent Rajapaksa from taking all the credit for the LTTE’s defeat (Fonseka had been a major general in the late conflict).

Of the Parliament’s 225 members, 196 come from 22 multi-member districts while 29 national list seats are allocated proportionally to the votes cast.

The opposition parties to the UPFA, which includes the UNF but also the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the communist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), had come together in January to support Fonseka’s candidacy, but the alliance has since broken down. The UNF, led again by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, is contesting as is the Tamil National Alliance and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a coalition led by Fonseka including the JVP. In Sri Lanka’s proportional system, no party has come close to achieving the two-thirds majority needed for changes to the constitution since 1977, when a UNP (United National Party, now a member of the UNF) government changed the constitution, thanks to its huge majority, to create a powerful presidency.

Here are the results of the 2004 election:

UPFA-JVP 45.60% (-0.01%) winning 105 seats (+12) [92 district, 13 national]
UNF 37.83% (-7.73%) winning 82 seats (-27) [71 district, 11 national]
TNA 6.84% (+2.95%) winning 22 seats (+7) [20 district, 2 national]
Jathika Hela Urumaya 5.97% (+5.4%) winning 9 seats (+9) [7 district, 2 national]
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress 2.02% (+0.87%) winning 5 seats (nc) [4 district, 1 national]
Up-Country People’s Front 0.54% winning 1 seats (+1) [1 district]
Eelam People’s Democratic Party 0.27% (-0.54%) winning 1 seat (+1) [1 district]

The JVP quit the UPFA in 2005, but various outfits allied in 2004 to other coalitions joined the UPFA coalition since then, giving it a majority.

Polling in two districts have been postponed to April 20 (meaning that Kandy’s 12 seats and Trincomalee’s 4 seats have not been allocated yet), and national seats have not been allocated yet. But preliminary results show a huge victory of the UPFA:

UPFA 60.43% (+14.83%) winning 117 seats
UNF 29.43% (-8.4%) winning 46 seats
TNA 2.68% (-4.16%) winning 12 seats
DNA 5.54% winning 5 seats

Results by district in 2010 (source: Wikipedia)

The UPFA does not have an overall majority on these numbers, and The Economist believes that the UPFA will end up winning 142 seats overall, short of the 150 needed to change the constitution (which in this case means something, since Rajapaksa has openly said he’d like to change it). Turnout was rather low everywhere, but especially in the Tamil areas (like in the 2010 presidential ballot). There was a low of only 23% turnout in Jaffna (compared to 47.4% there in 2004), historically the LTTE holdout and an area which is around 99% Tamil. As a result of this low turnout in Tamil areas, the TNA, which won 22 seats in 2004, did poorly this time around and does not dominate all-around in Tamil areas on these turnout levels. The TNA will need to re-invent itself somehow and take the consequences of the end of the civil war on the population.

The UPFA’s lack of a constitution-altering mandate on these numbers isn’t definite. A number of opportunistic ‘opposition’ MPs are already tempted to join the UPFA ranks and reap the benefits of power. This could give Rajapaksa his two-thirds majority, something which the opposition and the world fears he, rather keen on personal power and authority, could use to establish a more authoritarian regime on the island.

According to Wikipedia’s map (on a side note, Wikipedia now has election maps for all Sri Lankan legislative elections since 1977), the UNF was limited in this election to only a few urban districts in Colombo, the nation’s political and economic centre; and two other districts including one in central Sri Lanka. The UNF has historically done well in central Sri Lanka, likely due to the high proportions of Indian Tamils (they form a majority in Nuwara Eliya District). Unlike the northern and eastern Tamils, native to the island, Indian Tamils were originally brought from India to work in Ceylon’s tea, coffee or rubber plantations, which were historically in the hills of central Sri Lanka.