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Sri Lanka’s ruling UNP rules out early snap poll

Sri Lanka’s ruling UNP has no intention to go for an early snap general election, a party spokesman said Friday, ending weeks of speculation that the government may dissolve parliament before the end of its term.

Ajith P Perera, a United National Party (UNP) spokesman, said no parliamentary election would be held before February 2020 when President Maithripala Sirisena could sack the assembly.

“We must make it very clear that the UNP has not expressed any willingness to dissolve parliament before its term ends,” Perera said.

The decision is contrary to the expectations of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s new political party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

Buoyed by the excellent showing in the local council elections held in February, the SLPP leadership insists for an early election to gain control of the government.

They won over 70 per cent of the 300 plus local councils by thrashing both major parties of Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the UNP of prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Mano Ganesan, a government ally and a minister said the decision that the general election will be held only when they are due in August 2020 was taken at a high level meeting held last night.

“The President if he so wishes could call an early presidential election, but all other elections would be held on schedule,” Ganesan said.

Sri Lanka faced a major constitutional and political crisis which lasted over 50 days after Sirisena took a controversial decision of sacking Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister to replace him with Rajapaksa in late October.

The Supreme Court court in a landmark ruling said that Sirisena’s subsequent action to dismiss parliament and set a fresh parliamentary poll for January 5 was illegal.

He was then forced to restore Wickremesinghe in office as Rajapaksa was not able to prove his majority in parliament.

Rajapaksa’s SLPP has been clamouring for an early poll which they claim would be the key to end the political crisis and an unstable government resulting due to the never-ending rift between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe.

“We challenge the prime minister to dissolve the assembly with two thirds majority to hold an early election. We will support that resolution,” Rajapaksa’s elder son and legislator Namal Rajapaksa said.

The SLPP and Sirisena now find fault with the 19th amendment to the Constitution which took away powers of the President to dissolve parliament at his wish.

As per the amendment, he cannot do so until parliament has seen off four and a half years of its term.

However, the Parliament could resolve with two thirds to dissolve the assembly to call a snap election.

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