Colombo, February 12 (newsin.asia): Following the crushing defeat suffered by President Maithripala Sirisena-led Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in the February 10 all-Island local bodies elections, its governmental ally, the United National Party (UNP), is planning to form a government with some defectors from the SLFP, informed sources said.
On Monday both the SLFP and the UNP were in a huddle, analyzing the pros and cons of various schemes, though the general consensus in the UNP seemed to be that it should go it alone and form a government with its allies and defectors.
After all the UNP with 106 MPs needs only 7 more to get a simple majority. The President, alienated as he is from his party, is reportedly in agreement with this.
On Tuesday, the UNP and its allies, known as the United National Front (UNF), will be meeting the President.
President Sirisena is not averse to the UNP’s taking over the reins of government, given the fact that the alternative before him is infinitely worse, the sources added.
With the demoralized members of the SLFP clamoring for a tie up with the electorally successful Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is Sirisena’s arch rival and bête noire, the incumbent President has no option but to tie up with the UNP.
After all, it is the UNP which had enabled Sirisena to come to power as President in the January 2015 elections. And it is with the UNP that he has been running the National Unity Government (UNP) with its Supremo, Ranil Wickremesinghe, as Prime Minister.
Political observers said that the UNP has the ability to form a government on its own, because it has 106 members in the parliament of 225, and needs only seven more MPs to back it to give it a simple majority.
Sources said that it would not be difficult to get seven defectors from SLFP. Some might want to support a UNP government from the outside sitting in the opposition benches.
However, for the record, the President said that he would “make significant changes in the government in a couple of days” but did not reveal details.
The UNP leader, Wickremsinghe. declared that despite the anti-government vote in the local bodies elections, the UNP will continue in the government and stick to its alliance with President Sirisena-led SLFP till the next parliamentary elections in August 2020.
Looking at them closely, it would be clear that these two statements are conducive for a continuation of the existing tie up between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe but with a new division of power, namely, President Sirisena asking Wickremesinghe to form a UNP-led government with SLFP defectors and Sirisena himelf functioning as a “non-partisan” President.
SLFP On Its Last Legs?
The results of the local bodies elections shows that Sirisena has failed to give effective leadership to the SLFP and that its grassroots level workers and voters have switched allegiance to the breakaway SLPP led by former SLFP leader and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
With the SLPP, a chip of the old SLFP block, emerging as a dominant force in Sri Lanka to the detriment of the old block, the SLFP founded in the early 1950s by SWRD Bandaranaike appears to be dying a natural death.
When Bandaranaike formed the SLFP, it filled a gap in the Sri Lankan political system – the absence of an “opposition” or “alternative” to the dominant UNP.
A similar vacuum is evident now. Sri Lanka lacks an effective opposition to the UNP. The SLFP under Sirisena has shown that it does not have the capability to be the alternative. The alternative is quite clearly the SLPP led by Rajapaksa.
Reports in the media say that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has obtained the consent of President Sirisena to form a UNP government in place of the current unity government between the UNP and SLFP.
The Prime Minister met the President in the wake of the February 10 local council elections which saw the defeat of both the UNP and the SLFP, the reports said.
Sources close to the Prime Minister told Daily Mirror that the President had told Wickremesinghe to form a government if he could muster a majority in the House.
The President had also informed the Prime Minister that he would request SLFP MPs who are loyal to him to help the UNP muster a majority in the existing parliament.
Sources said the UNP would reveal the extent of its “majority” by Thursday, February 15.
It was also reported that the other parties in the United National Front (UNF) had also agreed to the formation of a UNP-led government.
Tamil National Alliance to Sit on Fence
Top sources in the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) told newsin.asia that it will sit on the fence reacting to events on merits.
This is because voters in the Tamil-majority Northern Province have shown their displeasure over the TNA’s support for the government.
The sources revealed that the TNA did badly in the politically important Jaffna district in the North. There has been a 50% fall in the vote share as compared to the August 2015 parliamentary elections. This is because voters saw it as being an ally of the government despite being the official parliamentary opposition.
The Tamil voters of Jaffna district were annoyed with the TNA for not pushing vigorously for constitutional reforms and transitional justice for the victims of the last war.
(The featured image at the top shows President Sirisena with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe)