Elections to the Sri Lankan Parliament would be held on April 8 and Parliament would convene on April 22, it was officially announced here on Wednesday.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday night ordered the dissolution of Parliament with effect from midnight Wednesday, paving the way for a general election.

The term of the 225-member House, which came into being in 2004, was scheduled to end in April. The political parties are finalising alliance partners and candidate selection.

In the last election, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by the then President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, secured a majority by winning 105 seats and the main opposition party -- the United National Party (UNP) led by Ranil Wickremesinghe -- secured 82 seats. The Tamil National Alliance got 22 seats while the Jathika Hela Urumaya nine.

As per the Election Commission data, the UPFA received 4,223,970 (45.60 per cent) votes, UNP 3,504, 200 (37.83 per cent), TNA 633,654 (6.84 per cent) and the JHU 554,076 (5.97 per cent) votes. The Lanka Sama Samaj Party (LSSP), the Communist Party, then Democratic United National Front (DUMF), the Mahajana Eksath Perumana (MEP), the Sri Lanka Muslim Party (SLMP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) were UPFA constituents.

But after President Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected in November 2005, he sought the co-operation of the UNP in defeating terrorism. In October 2006, a historic agreement was signed between the two parties to cooperate on issues of national interest including exploring the possibility of a common approach towards resolution of the ethnic conflict.

However, the agreement was declared as null and void after the President accommodated 17 senior UNP Parliamentarians including party Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya in his government. The UNP accused the President of attracting its parliamentarians with allurement of ministerial positions.

The JVP chose to join the ranks of the opposition citing its disagreement with the President on the approach towards consensus efforts for bringing all parties on board for a solution acceptable to all on the ethnic conflict as well other reasons. During the vote on the Budget in November 2007, the main Opposition party (the UNP) attempted in vain to defeat it.

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