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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sri Lanka Polls Jeopardize Peace

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka's bid to forge a lasting peace with the island's Tamil Tiger rebels may be sidelined because the new government lacks a majority to push the process ahead, the outgoing prime minister said Monday.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga's United People's Freedom Alliance won Friday's parliamentary poll but is eight seats short of a majority, raising questions about how to resume talks with the rebels who are fighting for a Tamil state in the north and east.

"Everything is in trouble if you don't have a government with a majority," said Ranil Wickremesinghe, who signed a cease-fire with the rebels during his two years as prime minister.

"I am saying that if you haven't got a government with a majority in the parliament, then everything else is suspended. Whether it be the peace process or the economy or the administration -- everything is in suspense," Wickremesinghe told reporters.

Political analysts also said the Freedom Alliance will have a tough time resuming talks with the Tamil Tigers after voters elected an ethnically divided parliament.

"The president still wants to take the peace process forward, but she'll have less room to maneuver," one Western diplomat said.

Wickremesinghe's United National Party won 82 seats, down from 114 in the last election, a two-seat majority which was achieved through a coalition. But he did not see the electoral result as a rejection of the peace process.

"In my view the peace process has been accepted by the country," he said, wearing his traditional white, collarless shirt, but looking tired.

Kumaratunga was expected to announce and swear in her choice as prime minister on Tuesday, because Monday was a Buddhist holiday in Sri Lanka.

The final results from the election were announced on Sunday, with a mixed message from voters -- ousting the UNP but also giving large minorities to smaller parties on opposing ends of the island's ethnic divide.

That included 22 seats for the Tamil National Alliance, a party endorsed by and considered the proxy of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

It is the third-largest party, ahead of an all-Buddhist monk party that took nine seats. Monks have been vocal opponents of the peace process.

The Tigers said in a statement the result was "a major political victory for our freedom struggle."

They repeated previous threats that the concept of a Tamil homeland should be politically resolved, "failing which the Tamil people will fight to establish the Tamil sovereignty in their homeland on the principle of self-determination."

The rebels said before the election they were ready to talk with anyone who won a mandate and had the power to negotiate to permanently end the war, which has killed 64,000 people.

Kumaratunga, who was left blind in one eye from a Tiger assassination attempt, has said she wants to start talks with the rebels as soon as possible.

The Tigers control a swathe of territory in the north and east, but before talks broke down last April they dropped a long-standing demand for a separate Tamil state in favor of autonomy.