Colombo, October 24 (newsin.asia): Thanks to the strong stand taken by a leading partner in the Sri Lankan coalition government, the long delayed elections to the 340 odd local bodies are likely to be held on January 27, 2018, reliable sources said.
Elections to 23 Municipal Councils, 41 Urban Councils, and 271 Pradeshiya Sabhas were last held in 2011.
No elections were held mainly because, in the Sri Lankan scheme of things, local bodies have little or no value, all power being in the hands of the national parliament.
However, the latest reason for postponement has been the reluctance of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by President Maithripala Sirisena to face the people at the grassroots level, having failed to deliver on the promises made to the people in the run up to the January 8 ,2015 Presidential election.
The SLFP (Sirisena) also faces opposition within, with many of its members being loyal to Sirisena’s rival and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
President Sirisena feared that if elections were announced, many in his faction will defect to the Rajapaksa-led Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and that this could result in his faction coming third in the elections.
United National Party (UNP), which is the dominant partner in the “rainbow coalition” governing Sri Lanka, has been wanting elections and pressing for it. It wants to making use of the split in the SLFP between the Sirisena and Rajapaksa factions.
At the recent cabinet meeting, UNP’s Kabir Hashim strongly argued for holding the polls at the earliest. But SLFP’s Faiszer Musthapha, who is also Minister of Local Government, opposed it tooth and nail trotting out various excuses. Finally, President Sirisena intervened and asked Musthapha to issue a gazette notification on October 27 so that elections could be held on January 27, 2018.
Holding the elections on January 27, 2018 is possible because some issues regarding delimitation and the increase of the number of Pradheshiya Sabhas in the plantation areas of the Central Province have almost been settled.
Parties of the Indian Origin Tamils in the plantation areas, have been asking for an increase in the number of Pradehsiya Sabhas from the present five to twelve. They are likely to get the seven additional seats.
The areas which will get more Pradeshiya Sabhas are: Nuwara Eliya (population: 134,153 voters), Ambagamuwa (population: 147,607 voters), Walapone (population: 85,111 voters), Kotmale (population: 81,445 voters) and Hanguranketa (population:72,980 voters).
An increase in the number of Pradehsiya Sabhas will enable more Indian Origin Tamils to get elected to local bodies.
As per the new plans, the 60% of the seats in a local body will be filled through the First Past the Post System of elections, and 40% through Proportional Representation. And in every local body, 25% of the seats will be reserved for women.
(The featured image at the top shows the three contenders in the coming elections, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Maithripala Sirisena)