Category Archives: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka – Local elections

In March local elections were held in Sri Lanka in about two-thirds of local authorities. However, they were postponed in the rest. The remainder of the elections were held last week.

As before, the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (Eksath Janatha Nidahas Sandhanaya – UPFA or EJNS) has dominated the results. The government press agency is reporting that there were elections for 65 local authorities and that the EJNS won 45, the Tamil National Alliance (Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi – ITAK) won 18, and the Tamil United Liberation Front won two.

In total, the UPFA/ENJS controls 250 of the 335 councils.

Sri Lanka – Local elections

Local elections were held in Sri Lanka on 17 March. In the end, elections were held in about two-thirds of local authorities.

In recent elections the United People’s Freedom Alliance (Eksath Janatha Nidahas Sandhanaya – EJNS) has established itself as the dominant party in Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa was easily re-elected last year and in the subsequent parliamentary election the party came close to winning a two-thirds majority. In so doing, though, Freedom House stripped Sri Lanka of its status as an electoral democracy.

The local elections confirmed the dominance of the United People’s Freedom Alliance. Wikipedia has totaled the results from the different provinces. The totals seem reliable.

United People’s Freedom Alliance, 55.89%, 205 councils
United National Party, 33.89%, 9 councils
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, 3.02%, 0 councils
Independents, 2.71%, 1 council
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, 1.48%, 4 councils
Tamil National Alliance, 1.17%, 12 councils

 

Sri Lanka – 18th Amendment to the constitution passed

The much discussed 18th Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution has been passed. The text of the constitution immediately prior to the 18th Amendment is available here. The draft version of the 18th Amendment is available here. I assume that the approved version is the same as the draft.

After all the speculation, the amendment was finally passed by 161 votes to 17. The opposition UNP abstained, but six members of the party voted in favour. As reported in a previous post, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress voted in favour as well. So, the government easily passed the necessary two-thirds majority.

The most controversial element of the reform is the abolition of the Constitutional Council, which was only introduced after the 17th Amendment in 2001, and its replacement by a five-person Parliamentary Council, comprising the Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and one MP nominated by each of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

In terms of the focus of this blog, Sri Lanka remains semi-presidential. However, a key reform, and one that was a major motivation behind the whole reform process, is that presidential term limits have been abolished. In addition, the president must now attend parliament at least once every three months and has the right to send messages to parliament. So, there is a certain presidentialisation of the system as a whole and the parliamentary process in particular.

Sri Lanka – Government now has a two-thirds majority

In Sri Lanka, the Department of Information is reporting that the government now has a two-thirds majority in parliament. This is enough for it to be able to pass constitutional amendments. The government plans either to allow the president to stand for a third term, or to change the nature of regime itself, with the president becoming the prime minister in a parliamentary system.

The recent election returned 144 seats for the ruling UPFA. There are 225 seats in total. So, a two-thirds majority is 153 deputies. As reported previously, two opposition deputies joined the government side. Given the Speaker of parliament is neutral and from the UPFA, then the government had the support of 145 deputies. Now, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) is supporting the constitutional amendments process. The SLMC has 8 deputies. So, this gives the government exactly the majority it requires.

Sri Lanka – Government edging towards a two-thirds majority

The recent legislative election in Sri Lanka left the government six seats short of a two-thirds majority. This figure is important because it would mean that the government could amend the constitution without the support of the opposition.

Yesterday, there was a report from the official government news service that two opposition deputies had defected from the opposition UNP to the governing party. There is a picture of the president with the two deputies. In addition, one UNP has already declared that he will support the constitutional changes. Therefore, the government is now just three short of a two-thirds majority.

Given the government’s constitutional plans would put an end to semi-presidentialism in Sri Lanka, this day seems to be drawing ever nearer.

Sri Lanka – End of semi-presidentialism?

In Sri Lanka it appears as if President Mahinda Rajapaksa has done a deal with the opposition on a constitutional amendment that may see the end of semi-presidentialism in Sri Lanka.

The official government news service is reporting that a deal has been reached on an “executive premiership”. There are few details yet. For example, presumably there would still be a president. However, whether the president would remain directly elected is not indicated. Generally, though, the basic plan is to transfer the president’s powers to the PM.

The opposition can, in theory, support this proposal because the government (and PM) will be responsible to the legislature. Therefore, there is less likelihood of a much touted Rajapaksa presidential dynasty emerging. Moreover, given Rajapaksa seems to be indicating that he would like to be the new executive PM, there would be no need for a constitutional amendment to abolish the current two-term presidential limit or to increase the number of possible terms. Again, the opposition was opposed to such a reform.

A two-thirds majority is needed for a constitutional amendment and the president’s party is just six seats short of such a majority. Therefore, some opposition support was needed. According to the report, the president has won the support of the main opposition United National Party for the proposal.

There is no timetable for a vote on the amendment, which also seems to include other potentially controversial issues. However, it is suggested that the vote would not take place before November, which, to quote another report, “is an eternity in Sri Lankan political terms”.

Sri Lanka – New prime minister

Following the parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka last month, a new prime minister has been appointed by President Rajapaksa.

The new prime minister is D. M. Jayaratne. He is a member of President Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party, which won a large majority at last month’s elections. The members of the new cabinet are named here. Originally, there were 37 full ministers and 39 deputy ministers. In recent days a number of new ministers have also been appointed. The previous cabinet comprised 51 Ministers, 39 non-cabinet Ministers and 19 Deputy Ministers. In the new cabinet, President Rajapaksa himself holds the defence, finance, ports and highways portfolios.

In a separate development, there is a report in Colombo Times that a constitutional amendment will be introduced very soon that will allow the president to serve for three terms. President Rajapaksa was recently re-elected to his second term.

Sri Lanka – Parliamentary election, final results

Reballotting in the Kandy and Trincomalee Districts has taken place. So, the official results of the Sri Lanka parliamentary election have been announced.

Democratic National Alliance: 5.5% (5 constituency seats plus 2 national seats: Total 7 seats)
Lanka Tamil State Party: 2.9% (13 constituency seats plus 1 national seat: Total 14 seats)
United National Party: 29.3% (51 constituency seats plus 9 national seats: Total 60 seats)
United People’s Freedom Alliance: 60.3% (127 constituency seats plus 17 national seats: Total 144 seats)

As reported in the previous post, it takes a two-thirds majority (or 151 seats) to change the constitution. The UPFA does not have this support by itself, but it likely that ‘refugees’ from other parties could be induced to vote for any constitutional reforms that are proposed.

Sri Lanka – Parliamentary election, provisional results

The parliamentary election was held in Sri Lanka on 8 April. The final results are not yet available. This is because there were irregularities in the voting in Kandy District and Trincomalee District. There will be re-elections in these areas very soon. In addition, this means that the 29 national seats, allocated on a PR basis, cannot be finally allocated. So, the results are only provisional.

However, what is clear is that, unsurprisingly, the incumbent United People’s Freedom Alliance party (UPFA), the party of the recently re-elected president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has won a landslide victory.

Adam Carr, via the Sri Lanka Elections website, is reporting the following results (comparative figures relative to the 2004 legislative election):

Democratic National Alliance, 5.5%, + 5.5%, 5 seats, +5
Lanka Tamil State Party (ITAK), 2.7%, -4.1%, 12 seats, -8
United National Party (Eksath Jathika Pakshaya EJP), 29.4%, -8.4%, 46 seats, -25
United People’s Freedom Alliance, 60.5%, +14.9%, 117 seats, +25
Others, 1.9%, -3 seats

There are 16 unallocated seats because of the irregularities and 29 unallocated national seats.

To change the constitution, a two-thirds majority (or 151 seats) is needed. Adam Carr’s prediction is that the UPFA will not achieve such a majority.

Sri Lanka – President dissolves parliament

The newly re-elected president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has dissolved parliament. The Official Government News Portal of Sri Lanka issued a statement saying: “The Parliament was dissolved midnight yesterday (09 Feb) by President Mahinda Rajapaksa under the powers vested in him under  Article 70 of  the Constitution and in pursuance of the provisions of Section 10 of the Parliamentary Elections Act no. 1 of 1981. The new  Parliament is scheduled to meet on April 22, 2010”.

The term of the Sri Lankan parliament was due to end in April anyway. So, while this is a dissolution, it only brings forward the date of the election by a couple of months. However, given President Rajapaksa’s recent re-election, presumably he calculates that he needs to elect a parliament on his coat-tails as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, President Rajapaksa’s main rival at the recent presidential election, former general Sarath Fonseka, has been arrested.