Parliamentary elections likely before Sinhala/Tamil New Year
Jan 31, 2010
Political circles expected the incumbent parliament to be dissolved some time in February and a general election held before the Sinhala and Tamil New year in April.
Asked on Thursday at a meeting with editors, publishers and heads of media organizations when parliament will be dissolved, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that no date for dissolution has yet been fixed.
Given the desire of most political parties that the electoral system, particularly relating to the preference vote should be changed, the president was asked whether he would seek the cooperation of the opposition to make the necessary changes before the next general election due by April.
"That’s a difficult matter (eka amaru deyak)," he responded.
Such changes require a two thirds majority in parliament which the government, with 131 MPs in the 225-member House, does not command but leaders of constituents of the UPFA are on record saying they are in talks to woo the necessary 19 opposition MPs.
"We may be able to get about four or five from the UNP but to get the necessary numbers, we would need many from the TNA," one well informed source said.
In the context of the landslide scored by President Rajapaksa, government supporters are confident of winning a two thirds majority enabling constitutional changes if the next election is worked under the previous first-past-the-post Westminster model.
But the consensus is that the country needs a mix of proportional representation and Westminster.
The president may dissolve parliament before he makes and official visit to Russia on Feb. 8, according to some of his party seniors.
He commented on intra-party battles for preference votes with candidates from the same party at war with each other at Thursday’s meeting with the press saying that most election incidents was a result of such rivalry.