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Sri Lanka ruling party records landslide win at polls

NAWALAPITIYA, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition won the first parliamentary election since the end of a 25-year civil war, final election results showed on Wednesday.

Rajapaksa’s ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won 144 seats in the 225-member parliament, falling short by six seats of the two-thirds majority that would enable him to change the island nation’s constitution.

Most political analysts expect the president to recruit legislators from other parties to give him the numbers to win the constitutional majority.

The final results were released after voting was re-run on Tuesday in two districts where ballots were annulled due to violence in the original April 8 vote.

The main opposition United National Party won 60 seats, while the former rebel party Tamil National Alliance secured 14 seats. The latter got most of its seats in the northern and eastern provinces, where the Tamil Tiger rebels fought for a separate state for the ethnic minority Tamils.

Election monitors reported no violence on Tuesday and no malpractice aside from the temporary barring of an opposition polling agent from a voting centre. Counting got under way immediately after polls closed in the late afternoon.

Keerthi Tennakoon of the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections said Nawalapitiya saw turnout of 55-60 percent of 50,000 registered voters. In the eastern district of Trincomalee, turnout was 46 percent of the roughly 1,000 voters.

The final results showed the overall voter turnout in the polls was 61.3 percent.

The election commission on Tuesday said Rajapaksa’s UPFA won two seats in Trincomalee and eight seats in Kandy.


Rajapaksa fell short of six seats for a two-third majority, which he needs to change the constitution.

Hopes of him securing that outcome has already driven the surging Colombo Stock Exchange deeper into record territory, with gains of more than 170 percent since it hit a trough at the end of 2008. It closed at a new record of 4,044.94 on Tuesday.

Dealers in government securities say they expect increased demand after parliament passes the 2010 budget in either May or June, seen as crucial to retaining a $2.6 billion International Monetary Fund loan which has boosted foreign investor confidence.

The president, who won a landslide re-election in January, has pledged to turn his efforts towards economic reform and reconciliation after he led the nation to victory over the Tamil Tigers in a three-decade separatist war 11 months ago.

This week will see swift political action: the president is expected to name a drastically trimmed cabinet on Wednesday and parliament will open on Thursday. He is also expected to work on opposition crossovers to gain the two-thirds majority required to push through constitutional reforms.

Additional reporting by Shihar Aneez, writing by Bryson Hull; Editing by Matthew Jones