Sri Lanka’s PM offers snap elections

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe offered a snap election as he neared the two-year governing agreement with his junior coalition partner, the splintered Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

In his bombshell announcement at Campbell Park in Colombo, Wickremesinghe said he was ready to stage any election even as several SLFP stalwarts warned it is they who will decide the future of the government after August.

After the August 2015 election returned a hung parliament, Wickremesinghe entered into a coalition with a section of the SLFP which remained loyal to President Maithripala Sisrisena.

Several Sirisena loyalists, including Dilan Perera, had warned recently that it was the SLFP which will decide the future of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s government.

Previously, both Wickremesinghe and Sirisena had indicated that they were happy to extend their two-year power-sharing deal, but SLFP ministers have made conflicting claims.

"This is a huge crowd, when I see this crowd, i want to tell you that we are ready for any election, we are ready to face any challenge," Wickremesinghe said.

The 19th amendment to the constitution prevents the president from sacking parliament, but the legislature on its own can seek a dissolution and go for a snap election.

Wickremesinghe is under pressure to call a fresh election and increase the party’s hold on power by capitalis9ing on the deep divisions with the rival SLFP.

Local elections had been put off by the SLFP as it battled internal strife. However, elections for the North-Western, Sabaragamuwa and Eastern provinces will have to be held before the end of the year.

Numbers game

The May Day rallies which had turned into a numbers game showed the Joint Opposition of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa making an impressive show at the Galle Face green in Colombo.





Despite a slow start, the Joint Opposition crowd picked by late afternoon even though they staged the shortest procession from Slave Island to Galle Face for their rally.

Unofficial estimates placed the crowd strength at the Joint Opposition rally at over 100,000 although Rajapaksa’s legislator son Namal Rajapaksa claimed about two million attended their meeting.

The former president challenged his successor Sirisena to hold local elections.

Rajapaksa said the May Day rally of the "Joint Opposition" would set the stage to topple the government.

Unofficial estimates placed the crowd at UNP rally was much greater as anticipated. The UNP had spent lavishly in arranging busses and for their supporters to reach Colombo from the provinces.

The SLFP’s main rally Getambe, Kandy had a good showing, but the numbers were fewer than at Galle Face. (COLOMBO, May 1, 2017)

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