COLOMBO: The United National Party (UNP), which runs the Sri Lankan government in alliance with a faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by President Maithripala Sirisena, is trying to use the objections of the small parties and the parties of the minorities, to scuttle Sirisena’s bid to pass the 20 th. Constitutional Amendment embodying electoral reforms, and force him to order fresh parliamentary elections.
Although electoral reforms were an important part of Sirisena’s Presidential election manifesto, which was co-authored by the UNP, the latter is not happy with the proposals now in existence. The UNP feels that it will lose the support of the minorities if the current draft 20 th.Amendment (20A) is passed by parliament.
The small parties and the parties of the minorities want the number of seats filled through the First Past the Post System (FPPS), to be kept to the minimum. They feel that most of the seats should be filled through the Proportional Representation System (PRS), as is the case at present.
In case the number of seats to be filled through the FPPS has to remain high, then the Double Vote System (DVS) - with a voter having one vote for the candidate of his choice and another for the party of his choice - should be introduced. The electoral constituencies should also be delimited in such a way that minorities can get elected even through the FPPS.
But the SLFP, and the United Peoples‘ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) of which SLFP is a part, are against giving in to the minorities. The Sirisena and the Rajapaksa factions are united on this issue. The only difference between the two is that the Rajapaksa faction is more forthright in this matter. The UNP is against changing the current system because Proportional Representation helps it as well the minorities, which are traditionally its allies.
UNP leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has told the small parties and parties of the minorities, that he will not let them down and will oppose the 20 th.Amendment (20A) when it is brought to parliament. If UNP opposes, the 20A will not be passed because it needs two thirds majority. Sirisena will them be forced to dissolve parliament and order fresh elections.
The UNP is keen on quick elections because the SLFP and the UPFA are divided between the Sirisena and Rajapaksa factions.
But efforts are on to unite the Sirisena and Rajapaksa factions and bring the outfits under their “joint” leadership. But these efforts are not showing signs of succeeding.
The two leaders find the terms of unity unacceptable. While Rajapaksa wants to be declared the Prime Ministerial candidate in the coming elections, Sirisena would have none of it. According to Sunday Times, Sirisena has offered Rajapaksa a roving Ambassador’s post described as a Sambhavaneeya Thanathurak (a Distinguished Post) to put him out of the way politically. But Rajapaksa will see through it and reject it.
Sunday Times also reports that Sirisena has offered to protect Rajapaksa from a possible UN-US bid to prosecute him for war crimes if he accepts the offer of a sinecure like the Sambhavaneeya Thanathurak. But Rajapaksa will see this as an attempt to blackmail him and reject it.