COLOMBO : Sri Lanka’s ruling party saw its popularity significantly eroded in a narrow local election win seen as a bellwether for a snap presidential election, official results showed Sunday. President Mahinda Rajapakse’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) secured 19 out of the 34 seats in the Uva provincial council that went to the polls Saturday, but saw its popularity plummet by an unprecedented 22.98 percentage points. The party scored 48.79 percent overall, raising doubts over an early presidential

election where the incumbent needs more than 50 percent of the vote to win.