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Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 17:45 UK

Sri Lanka ruling party wins majority in parliament

President Mahinda Rajapaksa voting - 8 April 2010
President Rajapaksa's main political rival was jailed earlier this year

The governing coalition in Sri Lanka has won a majority in parliamentary elections, according to preliminary figures released by election officials.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's United People's Freedom Alliance has so far won 117 of the assembly's 225 seats.

The main opposition party has won 46 seats, making it unlikely the alliance will win the two-thirds majority needed to make constitutional changes.

It is the first parliamentary poll since the civil war ended last year.

Veteran cricket all-rounder Sanath Jayasuriya has created what his supporters say is a world record by being elected to the parliament while still playing cricket. He contested the polls for President Rajapaksa's party in Matara district in the south.

Another cricketer, World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, told the BBC Sinhala service that he had secured victory in Kalutara district for the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) party led by detained opposition leader Sarath Foneka.

Correspondents say that Gen Fonseka and another opposition parliamentarian, Sunil Handunnetti, are the only two MPs elected from the DNA in Colombo - Sri Lanka's capital.

The official results of the preferential system of voting has yet to be released, but results have been widely leaked to the Sri Lankan media and journalists.

Government forces defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May after a decades-long insurgency that claimed more than 70,000 lives.

Poll monitors say turnout for Thursday's election was low and that many war-displaced Tamils in the north had been denied voting rights.

As the president's main rival, Gen Fonseka stood for election despite being in jail.

Free and fair?

A number of seats have yet to be declared, including those in one central polling area where a rerun has been ordered because of violence blamed by monitors on a government minister.

A Sri Lankan police officer stands guard as a woman leaves a polling station
It is the first parliamentary vote since the end of the war

"We may be short of 12 or 13 seats to get two-thirds but that will not be a challenge for us," said Transport Minister Dullas Alahaperuma, who is a spokesman for the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA).

"There is no question about the victory," he told Reuters news agency.

But an independent group, the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections, said the election was not free and fair.

It said a majority of the Tamil refugees in the north had been denied the right to vote because they had not been given clear guidelines on what identification papers to use.

A two-thirds majority in parliament - or 150 seats - would allow the president to change the constitution.

Mr Rajapaksa has spoken of adding a second chamber of parliament to accommodate minorities better - but he has ruled out the federalism many Tamil politicians want.



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