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”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *