ECONOMYNEXT – The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and the formerly rival centre-right United National Party (UNP), the party headed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, will join forces to contest the local government elections that may or may not take place in March this year.
UNP general secretary Palitha Range Bandara told reporters following a discussion between UNP and SLPP representatives Monday January 10 that the two parties will contest the election together under the SLPP’s Pohottuwa (lotus bud) symbol for some of the local bodies, the UNP’s elephant symbol for some and a common symbol for the others.
Consensus has already been reached to contest the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), traditionally a UNP stronghold, the Kandy Municipal Council and the Puttalam Urban Council under the elephant symbol, the former parliamentarian said.
District leaders of both parties had taken part in Monday’s discussion, and agreement had reached for five districts – Kandy, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Kalutara and Ratnapura – on which symbol to contest for which local authority and how to divide up nominations. Discussions for other districts will continue in due course, said Bandara.
The two parties have yet to work out a common symbol which will be decided later upon further discussion, he added.
Asked if the local government election will go ahead as announced, Bandara said the chairman of the election commission has been summoned for a discussion and he will work accordingly.
Despite the election commission announcing January 18 to 21 as dates for accepting nominations for the local polls, there is a cloud of uncertainty over the widely anticipated election. Opposition parties continue to accuse the government of resorting to various underhand tactics to delay the election while the election commission itself is reportedly divided on whether it should go ahead with the polls.
A number of government ministers have said the cash-strapped country cannot afford to hold elections at present, while some analysts warn that an election at this juncture could derail or at least slow down Sri Lanka’s recovery process. President Wickremesinghe, though he has said he will not participate in the UNP’s election campaign, is also reportedly decidedly not in favour of an election at present, choosing instead to prioritise his mandate to bring Sri Lanka out of its worst currency crisis in decades.
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Asked if the government has the funds for an election, Range Bandara said: “Both you and I know the economic situation of the country, but if there is an election we will face it. However, the economy is in dire straits.”
The SLPP is allied with 13 other parties, while 54 parties and organisations are affiliated with the UNP, despite the latter’s unprecedented electoral misfortunes at the 2020 parliamentary polls. The UNP general secretary said all allies of the party have agreed to work together.
The party stalwart scoffed at suggestions by reporters that newly formed or forming alliances such as the Uttara Lanka Sabhagaya pose a challenge to the UNP.
“The only challenge at the moment is the economy. Nothing else is a challenge.”
He is also unconcerned about the threat posed by the main opposition, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), which will likely do well in if not sweep the polls if they’re held at a time when the government’s popularity is once again at a low in light of increased taxes and cost-reflective utility tariffs.
“[The SJB] may prove a challenge in a bus race, but not in an election,” said Bandara, in an apparent swipe at the SJB leader who was recently recorded driving a bus at an SJB event. (Colombo/Jan10/2023)
From the frying pan into the fire. That is what our politics and politicians are taking us. Quo vadis?