ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rajapaksa's Triumph

A united but disparate opposition in Sri Lanka is unable to scuttle Mahinda Rajapaksa's bid for a second term.

With nearly the entire opposition in Sri Lanka pledging support to retired general Sarath Fonseka’s candidacy against incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the presidential election, which had been called two years ahead of schedule, was supposed to be a much closer outcome than was indeed the case. Yet in the end, Rajapaksa triumphed easily, defeating the former army chief by a margin of more than 17 percentage points.

The president’s gamble of cashing in on his “popularity” among the majority Sinhala population after the Sri Lankan army defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and brought to an end a three-year-old civil war and a 30-year-long phase of the ethnic conflict, paid off. The war had seen multiple casualties inflicted on the civilian Tamil population in the north and had resulted in thousands being displaced. Cognisant of the fact that nearly one quarter of the population belonged to the Tamil or Muslim sections, Rajapaksa provided some last minute “sops” – opening up the highway to Jaffna in the north, release of a large number of internally displaced people who had been forced into internment camps and more.

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