Sri Lanka coalition suffers humiliation at local vote
Colombo: Sri Lanka's ruling alliance was humiliated in local elections seen as a test of its leadership and the party of ex-president Mahinda Rajapakse was on track for a shock landslide victory, early results showed on Sunday.
The mid-term polls further strained the uneasy coalition between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as they faced a resurgent challenger in Rajapakse's new party.
Official results showed Rajapakse's Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna -- SLPP or People's Front -- had won 160 of the 241 councils counted so far, out of a total of 340.
Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP) was a distant second with 30 councils while Sirisena's Freedom Alliance languished with just 10.
Unofficial results showed Rajapakse's party comfortably leading in all regions bar the battled-scarred north and east where, as president, he brutally crushed a separatist movement to end the island's ethnic war in 2009.
His SLPP was predicted to wrest control of more than two-thirds of the local government bodies, according to unofficial tallies kept by both the ruling party and opposition.
"I earnestly request all those who contested under the SLPP to celebrate this hard-won victory peacefully and with restraint and in a manner that will not inconvenience the defeated side," Rajapakse said in a statement.