In a clear sign that a presidential poll followed by a general election is in the offing, the Cabinet presided over by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday decided to present a Vote-on-Account to Parliament instead of a budget for 2010.

In an interview to The Hindu (published on July 6, 7 and 8), Mr. Rajapaksa had declared that he would seek re-election before the parliamentary polls.

Cabinet spokesman and Minister of Mass Media and Information Anura Priyadarshana Yapa told a news conference here that since Parliament’s term is to end in April, presentation of budget for the whole year is not the accepted custom.

Under the Constitution, the President is empowered to call for presidential election once he/she completes four of the six-year tenure. Mr. Rajapaksa completes his four years in the third week of November.

In the event of a presidential election, the person elected to office of President would take oath of office and secrecy only on completion of the six-year term of the sitting President.

In his The Hindu interview, to a question on the much-needed and awaited political solution to the ethnic problem, Mr. Rajapaksa had said: “I know what to give and I know what not to give. The people have given me the mandate, so I’m going to use it..No way for federalism in this country. For reconciliation to happen there must be a mix [of ethnicities].

“Even tomorrow I can give that [political solution] — but I want to get that from the people. I am waiting, but it will be after my [re]election [as President].”

Observers are of the view that Mr. Rajapaksa wants an early second term as his popularity ratings in the south are high after the military defeat of the LTTE in May and death of its leader, Velupillai Prabakaran.

Managers in the President’s camp believe that if Mr. Rajapaksa is re-elected he would not only have firmer grip on ruling party candidates for the parliamentary election but also be better placed to seek a clear majority for the alliance led by him in the new House.

At his last rally on Tuesday for the Southern Provincial Council (SPC) — the voting is on October 10 — Mr. Rajapaksa said the people of south would react accordingly to international allegations levelled against the “leaders who pioneered the humanitarian mission against the ruthless terrorists”. With the election of the SPC, barring the Northern Province, all other seven provinces have witnessed fresh elections and gone in favour of the ruling alliance.

He told the gathering that certain parties were engaged in a malicious attempt to discredit the government at international level adding that his government would always work towards strengthening of relations with the world.

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