Accessibility links

President's Party Leads in Early Sri Lanka Election Returns - 2004-04-03

Vote-counting is under way, following parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka that many hoped would break a deadlock between the country's feuding president and prime minister. Early returns show the party of President Chandrika Kumaratunga holding a slight lead over her rival's party, but not enough to win control of parliament.

The results in the parliamentary election may be so close that both of the main contenders will have to court alliances with smaller parties, in order to gain control of the 225-member parliament.

Twenty-four parties took part in the poll, but it was largely a contest between two bitter political enemies - President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who are from different parties.

The two have clashed over how to proceed with peace negotiations with the Tamil Tiger guerrilla group, which has waged a 20-year separatist campaign on behalf of Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority.

A two-year-old cease-fire with the group continues to hold, but the political feud in the capital has stalled progress toward a final peace agreement.

Roughly 75 percent of Sri Lanka's nearly 13 million voters are believed to have cast their ballots Friday in one of the most peaceful elections in decades.