For many people on this planet, the big election this month was in Sri Lanka. The outcome offers a hope, finally, of peace in that strife-torn island nation (population: 18 million) off the southern tip of India. That is not assured, but it is what the voters sought.
The winner, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, became prime minister in August after her People's Alliance Party narrowly won parliamentary elections. She put on a peace blitz, negotiating with the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and won the presidential election by an authoritative 62 percent.
Mrs. Kumaratunga is the daughter of Sri Lanka's first prime minister, Solomon Bandaranaike, who was assassinated, and the second, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who was the world's first elected woman prime minister. Mrs. Kumaratunga is also a widow, her actor-politician husband having been murdered.
She defeated another widow, Srima Dissanayake, of the United National Party, who succeeded her husband, Gamini Dissanayake, as presidential candidate following his assassination Oct. 23. He had denounced Mrs. Kumaratuna's peace initiatives. Mrs. Kumaratunga was supported by Tamil and other minority voters.
Roughly four-fifths of Sri Lankans are ethnic Sinhalese, most of them Buddhists. The minority of almost one-fifth are Hindu Tamils concentrated at the northern tip of the island nation. A larger number of Tamils live in India.
Mrs. Kumaratunga's socialist economic outlook is not what Sri Lanka needs. But her priority to end the "culture of assassination" is. Since the Tamil separatist rebellion broke out 11 years ago, that culture has slaughtered a prime minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991, and a president of Sri Lanka, Ranasinghe Premadasa, in 1993.
Mrs. Kumaratunga is not guaranteed to succeed, especially if -- as seems likely -- Tamil Tigers are found responsible for murdering Mr. Dissanayake. But she promised to make an honest try, and that promise brought her a landslide victory. She started out by naming her mother prime minister again, at age 78 and ailing. Daughter and mother offer the best hope for reconciliation that Sri Lanka has had in years.