Local elections across Sri Lanka on Saturday were supposed to be about small issues, like installing street lighting for some neighborhoods and improving garbage sweeping in others. But the country’s first post-war national government has stagnated, with the governing coalition partners at each other’s throats. Suddenly, the local vote has become a referendum on the national government’s performance. And, to an extent, the results of the elections may signal what direction the island nation takes in its still-fragile transition from decades of a civil war that killed as many as 100,000 people before it ended in 2009.
The results trickling in on Sunday made it clear that opposition party candidates, led by the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, were close to sweeping the local councils. They put Mr. Rajapaksa — a former strongman accused of human rights abuses and corruption who brutally crushed the Tamil insurgency before the war ended — once again at the center of the country’s political future.
Mr. Rajapaksa, speaking from his hometown, Tangalle, congratulated his supporters and asked them to celebrate their victory peacefully. Some members of his party went so far as to say that the “people have abolished the mandate” of the governing coalition and called on the government to resign.