Local poll win bolstered SLPP's campaign: Mahinda Rajapaksa
Colombo: Sri Lanka's main opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that his party's resounding victory in a local election in the southern region last week has bolstered the campaign of his brother and presidential candidate Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. "The result is an indicator of how the country would vote," Rajapaksa told reporters on Saturday.
Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) won the Pradeshiya Sabha elections in Elpitiya on Friday with 57 per cent of the total vote.
The ruling United National Party could muster only 24 per cent while President Maithripala Sirisena's Sri Lanka Freedom Party, which is in an alliance with the SLPP, won just 12 per cent.
Following the mandate received by the SLPP, Rajapaksa requested all supporters of the opposition alliance to savour the victory peacefully and without inconveniencing anyone.
"The people of Elpitiya have with great foresight and integrity, conclusively defeated the attempt made by the Government to retain power by deceiving the people through the distribution of land, jobs and all manner of material inducements," he was quoted as saying by the Colombo Gazette.
The local council election which should have been held in February, 2018 was delayed due to a legal battle concerning the candidates.
The Sri Lankan Government believes that the SLPP's win in a local poll does not ensure that the party's candidate would win presidential election too.
"Elpitiya has always been a favourable ground for them (opposition)," said Home Minister Vajira Abeywardena.
He said Rajapaksa in 2015 had won 60 per cent of the votes at Elpitiya in the presidential election when he lost the poll.
"This is in no way an indication on where the vote will go during the presidential election," Abeywardena said.
Rajapaksa has fielded his brother Gotabhaya as his party's candidate against the ruling party's Sajith Premadasa, who is the minister of Housing.
While a total of 35 candidates would be contesting the presidential poll on November 16 - the highest ever in Sri Lanka's history, but the main contest is seen to be between Premadasa and Gotabhaya.
While a majority of Sinhala Buddhist community favours Rajapaksa, Premadasa banks on support equally from Tamil and Muslim minorities.