ECONOMYNEXT – Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s proxy won 225 local government, or two thirds of the councils up for grabs, in a landslide that shell shocked both the President and the Prime Minister.
Official results showed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party was a distant second with 41 councils — 10 municipalities, 13 urban councils and 18 Pradesiya Sabas.
President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party was decimated. It won just 11 councils, including a municipality and an urban council.
The councils are the lowest level local government, but the results are expected to impact national politics because of the unexpected showing of Rajapaksa’s proxy party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).
The results were a clear indication that the SLFP voters had ditched Sirisena despite his repeated attempts to rally the party under his leadership.
Rajapaksa told reporters Sunday that the result was a "red light" warning to the government. Unlike other members of the SLPP, he did not press for the government to step down.
Rajapaksa’s legislator sin Namal asked President Sirisena to dissolve parliament and call a fresh election.
However, the president has no power to dissolve parliament until February 2020. Only MPs can through a two thirds majority in parliament seek a dissolution of the legislature and ensure a snap general election.
A close aide of the former president said even he was shocked by the results. "We knew that we will do well, but we did not anticipate such a landslide," the aide said.
The SLPP got just over 45 percent of the popular vote at Saturday’s election while the UNP got a little over 32 percent. Sirisena’s SLFP managed 13.5 percent while the leftist JVP got 6.2 percent.
The results showed that the actual votes polled by the UNP was down by about 1.8 million suggesting that a considerable amount may have shifted to the SLFP as well as the SLPP to register a protest.
Had the SLPP polled over 50 percent of the popular vote, it would have brought intense pressure on Wickremesinghe to step down from the leadership of the party. However, calls for his resignation had subsided as the final results were coming in. (COLOMBO, February 11, 2018)