Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday sought snap parliamentary elections, citing the government’s poor performance in the recently-held local polls, amid growing speculation of a likely churning within the coalition in power. “The government should dissolve the Parliament now and hold elections,” he said, addressing a press conference held at the offices of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).
The party — formed in 2016 by his supporters — secured around 230 out of the 340 councils in Saturday’s island-wide elections to local government authorities, shockingly defeating Mr. Rajapaksa's political rivals now in government.
Given that the country’s last presidential and parliamentary elections were held respectively in January and August 2015, a national election is not due until 2020. As per the Constitution, however, President Maithripala Sirisena can dissolve Parliament following a resolution in the House, endorsed by a two-thirds majority.
“We are willing to extend our support to such a resolution,” said Mr. Rajapaksa, who has around 50 legislators supporting him in Sri Lanka's 225-member Parliament.
Meanwhile, Colombo was abuzz with speculation about the next move to be taken by the strained coalition government — formed in 2015 by the United National Party (UNP) and a faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) — with demoralised cadre reportedly pressuring their leaders, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena, to break off the coalition, which they see as constraining each other’s parties.
In a statement issued on Monday, Finance Minister and prominent UNP figure Mangala Samaraweera said the people had told the government that it “had not done enough”. The message, he said, has “sunk deep into the UNP”. He added that the party was committed to “taking drastic measures to fulfil the promises we made three years ago”.
No agreement yet
With little indication on the future course of action from the SLFP camp led by Mr. Sirisena, an official statement from the President’s office said he was yet to reach any agreement with Mr. Wickremesinghe on governing local bodies, or about the future of the coalition.
The February 10 local polls were, for the first time, conducted using a mixed model — 60% of the members were elected as per the first-past-the-post system and the rest through a closed list proportional representation. The Election Commission is yet to release the outcome of the proportional representation component.