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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 12:35 GMT
Opposition asked to lead Sri Lanka
Ranil Wickramasinghe
Ranil Wickramasinghe: Set to be new premier
Sri Lanka's opposition leader, Ranil Wickramasinghe, has been invited to form the next government after his party's strong showing in the violence-hit parliamentary elections.

Despite winning the most number of seats, Mr Wickramasinghe's UNP may have to work in another hung parliament since it failed to secure a simple majority in the 225 member assembly.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga has asked Mr Wickramasinghe to become the next prime minister and will meet him on Saturday to discuss his cabinet.

Ms Kumaratunga, whose governing People's Alliance (PA) lost to the opposition United National Party, will continue as president but will have a potentially uneasy relationship with an opposition government.


The election was one of the most violent in Sri Lanka's history and a curfew has been reimposed in three areas of the country after fresh outbreaks of violence.

Mobs rioted in the central town of Kandy in protest against the deaths of 10 Muslims on polling day.

The authorities have announced that a nationwide curfew will be imposed for a second night on Friday to help keep the peace.

The election signals a comeback for the opposition UNP.

Final results released on Friday gave the UNP 109 seats and it's Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Allies five seats.

The outgoing PA secured 77 seats and its Marxist ally - the People's Liberation Front - won 16 seats in the 225 member parliament.

Serious situation

The vote was marked by widespread allegations of intimidation and fraud, and the army prevented tens of thousands of minority Tamil voters from travelling out of rebel-controlled areas to cast their votes.

Ranil Wickramasinghe
Ranil Wickramasinghe has made history with a spectacular win

At least 60 people died during the campaign and the election day.

Police in Kandy said they were forced to reimpose the curfew because they felt that "the situation was becoming serious".

Ten victims were allegedly shot dead by rival political party activists, in the hill capital.

Opposition gains

Mr Wickramasinghe made history by winning the largest number of preferential votes ever - more than 400,000 in his constituency.

Former Sri Lankan cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga has done well in Colombo, and a Buddhist monk has been elected to parliament on a PA ticket for the first time.

Funerals
The vote was marred by violence and intimidation
The BBC's Frances Harrison in Colombo says the PA's strategy to convince voters that the UNP had made a secret pact with the separatist Tamil Tigers appears to have failed.

Analysts say the vote is in the hope that the opposition can revive the stalled peace process between the government and the Tigers.

In urban areas the main issue has been the economy.

The business community has largely backed the opposition, hoping that a change would revive investor confidence.

Voters were asked to choose a new parliament barely a year after the last elections failed to produce an outright winner.

As a result President Kumaratunga's People's Alliance formed a coalition, which eventually lost its majority, making fresh elections necessary.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Frances Harrison
"The Muslims have proved unreliable allies in the past"

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BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

05 Dec 01 | South Asia
Violence mars Sri Lanka poll
23 Nov 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka's Marxist leader ends exile
22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka poll violence 'doubles'
09 Oct 00 | South Asia
Profile: Ranil Wickramasinghe
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