Sri Lanka to hold snap elections in April

Polls will take place on April 25. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 04 March 2020

Sri Lanka to hold snap elections in April

  • News follows president’s decision to dissolve parliament six months ahead of schedule

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved his country’s parliament six months ahead of schedule on Tuesday, paving the way for new elections in April.

Polls will take place on April 25, nominations for which can be filed from March 12-19. Once through, the ninth parliament will be convened on May 16.

Rajapaksa’s brother, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the country’s prime minister, leads a minority government. He justified the dissolution on Tuesday by saying that his government could not continue due to the “weak strength of his party” in the 225-member parliament.

Last week, the Vote on Account (VOA) bill was withdrawn due to stiff protests from the opposition which holds the majority of votes in the legislature.

Commenting on the move, opposition member Mujibur Rahman told Arab News “no government could run well” with a marginal majority, adding that the United National Party (UNP) were the party to watch.

“The opposition UNP, which has formed an alliance with Muslim and Tamil parties, would have a walk-over at the polls,” he said.

Rishad Bathiudeen, leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress Party, told Arab News: “We are winning (in the polls) with a bigger majority than in previous years,” adding that the present government had “shown its feebleness with the premature dissolution.”

Experts said that the dissolution was expected, since the government could not function with a slim majority.

“The government has lost confidence among the people and it is hoping against hope to win the elections,” Muheed Kiran, and international human rights activist, told Arab News.

Meanwhile, the president of the Sri Lanka Muslim Council, N.M. Ameen, said the council was worried about the safety and security of his community.

“So far so good, but let’s wait for the upcoming elections,” he said.

Following the dissolution, the country will be run by a caretaker government with Mahinda Rajapaksa continuing as prime minister, while all state ministers and deputy ministers have been requested to resign from their posts on Tuesday.

Nearly 16.3 million Sri Lankans are eligible to cast their votes in the forthcoming elections.

With the premature dissolution, 67 parliamentarians will lose their pension rights, since they will not have completed the required five-year term in order to qualify.

Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

Updated 33 min 12 sec ago

Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

  • Security crackdown as more than 7,400 candidates contest twice-delayed election

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka went to the polls on Wednesday to elect 225 members to its 9th Parliament amid tight security and health precautions to limit the coronavirus pandemic.

The polls were twice-delayed after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved the assembly in March and postponed polls scheduled for April due to the outbreak, before finally deciding on Aug. 5 as the date for general elections.

Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Sri Lanka Elections Commission (EC), said police had been given “shooting orders” in case of security breaches and strict health protocols had been introduced at polling booths.

Deshapriya said that all 12,985 polling booths had been sanitized as a preventive measure.

The elections were completed at an estimated cost of $48.6 million, up from the $37.8 million spent during last year’s presidential polls.

Speaking to Arab News on Wednesday, Samuel Ratnajeevan Hoole, an EC member, said that a 60 percent turnout by noon was a “good sign of voters’ response.”

“Our voters are matured and informed now, and they will choose whom they want irrespective of any racial or religious differences,” he said, adding that there were fewer poll-related complaints this year compared with previous elections.

There were 46 registered political parties and 313 independent groups vying for the 225-seat parliament, with a total of 7,452 candidates in the fray – 3,652 fielded by 46 parties and 3,800 representing 313 independent groups.

According to the EC, nearly 16,263,885 registered voters could make their choice at the elections.

At this election, 196 members are to be elected at the district level under the proportional representation system to the 225-member parliament, while 29 members will be chosen from the National List. Under the 1978 constitution, the members are elected to the 9th Parliament.

Dr. Ruwan Wijemuni, general director of health services in Colombo, credited the voters for “lending their cooperation in full to make it a grand success.” At the same time, police spokesman Jaliya Senaratne said there were no reports of violence from any part of the island.

“There were minor scuffles on the eve of the polls in some parts of the island which were settled then and there,” he added.

Ismathul Rahman, 57, from the coastal town of Negombo, told Arab News that this year people were “keen to elect the right people” for their respective electorate as it was “crucial for the country’s economy.”

“It was a peaceful poll without any remarkable incidents of violence. The EC has managed the show well,” said Khalid Farook, 70, former president of the All-Ceylon Young Men’s Muslim Association, Wednesday.