Tamils win majority of seats in Sri Lanka's Northern province

Sept. 22, 2013 at 2:38 PM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Sri Lanka's Tamil National Alliance won a majority of seats in northern provincial elections, the country's elections commission announced Sunday.

The Tamil-majority Northern province held its first-ever elections for a semi-autonomous council Saturday four years after the Sri Lankan army defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

The Tamil National Alliance won 30 out of 38 seats and President Mahinda Rajapaksa's coalition's candidates won the remaining eight seats, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

The provincial councils have limited powers, but the victory was a boon for the country's Tamil minority in their quest for more freedom from the country's leaders in Colombo, the newspaper said.

Observers said voting went well Saturday despite reports of attacks and threats toward Tamil National Alliance backers in the days leading up to the election.

"Generally the voting day went very, very smoothly," said Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, the former vice president of Kenya, who was in Sri Lanka with a team of observers. "President Rajapaksa wants to demonstrate greater political tolerance and the fact that he allows the voters in the north to vote the way they wish will certainly be a positive thing."

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