Colombo: Sri Lanka's former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), have won a local government election in the island nation after the party won 239 local bodies out of 340, the Elections Commission said.
The ruling United National Party (UNP) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe won 41 local government bodies while the ITAK, which represents the minority Tamil population, won 34. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), led by President Maithripala Sirisena, won 10 local bodies.
Following the government's defeat, President Sirisena met ministers from the SLFP who are part of the unity government and said he would bring noticeable changes within the coming days. "The people of the country have voted for a change and I will respond positively to their message and introduce necessary changes as soon as possible," Sirisena told his cabinet ministers.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe in a meeting with his UNP ministers also said that the election result was a "wake-up call" for the UNP and he intended to take some drastic decisions to put the government back on track. Both the President and Prime Minister said they would continue the unity government till its full term which ends in 2020. Speaking to reporters in the capital, Rajapaksa said that following his party's victory, they would now work towards developing the grassroots levels in order to gain economic stability.
The local councils are the third tier of governance in Sri Lanka after the Parliament and the Provincial Councils and are primarily responsible for local affairs such as the development of village access roads, garbage collection, and maintenance of basic local infrastructure.