Sri Lankans voted on Tuesday in two districts where ballots were annulled due to violence in an April 8 poll, which gave President Mahinda Rajapaksa a commanding parliamentary majority.
A force of more than 1,000 police officers and soldiers on hand in the Central Province district of Nawalapitiya, about 60 km (38 miles) east of the capital Colombo, prevented the mayhem which engulfed the area on April 8.
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. "This is a useless exercise, since the result is obvious -- the government will win," businessman Erick Herman Rajapaksha told Reuters before voting in Nawalapitiya.
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 election commission on Tuesday said that Rajapaksa's ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance had won two seats in Trincomalee, while opposition parties won two. That gives the UPFA 119 seats so far out of 225 to be decided.
Once Tuesday's results are tallied, 29 seats will be awarded based on the national vote percentages won by each party.
Edging towards two-thirds majority
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 toward 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.
ReutersLast Mod: 20 Nisan 2010, 19:53