Will National elections be postponed?

The government has moved to change the parliamentary electoral system triggering fears in political circles whether it is yet another attempt to postpone the national elections including the Presidential Election pending next year.

Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has submitted a Cabinet resolution seeking approval to introduce a new system to elect members to Parliament under a mixed system. According to the resolution, the electorates will return 160 members to the House whereas another 65 seats will be reserved under proportional representation.

The Cabinet subcommittee is to be formed to proceed with work in this regard. The need for a change in the current electoral system based on proportional representation with preferential voting has come under sharp criticism because it has led to corruption, political skulduggery, interparty and intra-party violence in politics.

A parliamentary select committee was appointed way back during the 2002/2004 government led by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe as the then Prime Minister. It was headed by current Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena as an opposition MP at that time.

Asked how serious this time the government in changing the electoral system, Minister Rajapakshe said, “That is why the Cabinet subcommittee is appointed to look into the resolution I presented,”

However, the opposition parties fear whether this is a tactic to postpone the national elections under the cover of electoral system reforms. They justify their fear on the basis that the election to the provincial councils have been delayed since 2017 over a legal snag that arose from the new electoral system introduced for it.

Meanwhile, SLPP National Organizer Basil Rajapaksa said he never discussed electoral reforms or postponement of any election during his recent meetings with President Ranil Wickremesinghe. He said only former Presidents Chandrika Bandaranaike and Maithripala Sirisena talked about the need to change the Presidential Election systems during their campaign periods in the past.

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