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Rajapaksa family celebrates landslide victory in Sri Lanka elections

Shahudha Mohamed
07 August 2020, MVT 12:57
Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (C) leaves a polling station after casting his ballot in the parliamentary election in Colombo on August 5, 2020. - Sri Lankan voters cast their ballots on August 5 for a new parliament as the ruling Rajapaksa brothers seek a fresh mandate to cement their grip on power. (Photo by Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP)
Shahudha Mohamed
07 August 2020, MVT 12:57

Sri Lanka's Election Commission announced that ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) won the majority of parliamentary seats, raising concern amongst rights groups over the control secured by the Rajapaksa family.

Since Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's younger brother Gotabaya won a presidential election in November, Sri Lankans have largely embraced the family's populist platform.

SLPP clinched 145 of the total 225 parliamentary seats -- just five seats short from securing the super-majority which will allow the party to roll back constitutional changes made by the previous administration that limit the presidential powers.

After Mahinda Rajapaksa lost the presidential election in 2015, the new government passed a constitutional amendment that imposed a two-term limit on the presidency, revoked immunity from prosecution and made presidential appointments subject to parliamentary oversight.

However, according to media reports, SLPP is expected to easily form an alliance with another party to secure the five additional seats they need to declare a super-majority.

According to AFP reports, officials said Rajapaksa, 74, will be sworn in as premier by his 71-year-old brother Gotabaya, the island nation's president, at a Buddhist temple near the capital on Sunday.

Gotabaya was elected president in November, setting up the latest return of the family who have dominated the island's politics for the past two decades.

The election has left the splintered opposition decimated. Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB) won 54 seats and three seats respectively.

Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) secured 10 seats while former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's opposition United National Party (UNP) saw a major defeat, losing all but one of the 106 seats it won in the 2015 elections.

Even with a super-majority, the incoming administration faces challenges.

The economy had scarcely recovered from the blow of the 2019 bombings before the coronavirus epidemic struck, prompting lockdowns that have still not been fully lifted.

The Asian Development Bank expects the island's economy to shrink by an unprecedented 6.1 percent this year.

Mahinda is expected to lean heavily on China for economic assistance, as he did during a decade as president until 2015, but also increasingly on neighbouring India.

Wednesday's election, postponed twice due to the epidemic and held with strict social distancing measures, saw a 70 percent turnout from the 16 million-strong electorate. The measures made it the most expensive vote on record at 10 billion rupees ( USD 54 million), the Election Commission said.

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