Sri Lanka’s top court suspended an order by President Maithripala Sirisena to dissolve the island nation’s parliament and call a snap general election after Ranil Wickremesinghe mounted a legal challenge against his ouster as prime minister. The Supreme Court granted interim relief until Dec. 7, staying the Presidential notice suspending parliament and halting preparations for the poll. The court’s order on Tuesday means that Sri Lanka’s parliament will reconvene on Nov. 14 as earlier decided by the president. He was acting in response to mounting pressure to resolve the political crisis since his surprise dismissal of Wickremesinghe on Oct. 26. “We will be in parliament tomorrow and we will show the majority, that we are the legitimate government in Sri Lanka,” Wickremesinghe told reporters in Colombo following the court’s decision.
Supporters of Sri Lanka’s sacked prime minister and a top election official on Monday challenged in court the president’s dissolving of parliament, upping the ante in a political crisis that has sparked international alarm. Late on Friday, President Maithripala Sirisena called snap elections and dissolved the legislature, two weeks after sacking the prime minister and installing the divisive Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. The United States has led a chorus of international concern over events in the Indian Ocean island nation of 21 million people. Three political parties holding an absolute majority in parliament and an election commissioner, one of three officials tasked with conducting polls, on Monday asked the Supreme Court to declare the president’s actions illegal.
Maithripala Sirisena, Sri Lanka’s president, abruptly dissolved parliament on November 9th and called a snap general election. The move capped several weeks of political drama in the Indian Ocean republic as the president has tested—many would say has greatly exceeded—the constitutional limits of his power. The action began on October 26th, when Mr Sirisena abruptly sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe, the elected prime minister and also his ostensible political ally in the ruling coalition. He replaced him with Mahinda Rajapaksa (pictured), a former strongman president whose regime Mr Sirisena had loudly accused of corruption and even of having plotted to kill him. The flip-flopping president also suspended parliament for three weeks to avoid a debate on his actions, and began to swear in new ministers. The suspension of parliament was widely seen as an indication that the new prime minister did not have the support of majority of MPs.
Sri Lanka: Election Losses Test Sri Lanka’s Leader, and the Country’s Direction | The New York Times
Local elections across Sri Lanka on Saturday were supposed to be about small issues, like installing street lighting for some neighborhoods and improving garbage sweeping in others. But the country’s first post-war national government has stagnated, with the governing coalition partners at each other’s throats. Suddenly, the local vote has become a referendum on the national government’s performance. And, to an extent, the results of the elections may signal what direction the island nation takes in its still-fragile transition from decades of a civil war that killed as many as 100,000 people before it ended in 2009.
On Feb.10, Sri Lankans will go to the polls to vote for their local representatives. But the outcome of these village elections will have much wider repercussions as they will ultimately determine if China will play a bigger role in Sri Lanka’s development. The battle for Sri Lanka’s heartlands is being fought out by the country’s twice defeated pro-China former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa and the incumbent pro-India coalition government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The Sri Lankan Government is set to move a resolution in Parliament next month to convert the House into a Constitutional Assembly which will initiate the process of drafting a new Constitution and abolishing the executive presidential system. The government has noticed the Parliament of the motion to convert the House into a Constitutional Assembly and it has been placed in the parliamentary order book as upcoming business in the New Year, officials said. The officials said that the Parliament will be transformed into the Constitutional Assembly on January 9 when President Maithripala Sirisena is due to address the House to mark the beginning of his second year in office.
Sri Lanka: Parliamentary elections genuine, ‘well administered’ – European election monitors | Colombo Page
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) that was in the country to monitor the Sri Lanka parliamentary elections held on August 17 said the election was well-administered and genuine although the campaigning was restricted with excessive rules. “The 17 August Parliamentary Elections in Sri Lanka were well-administered and offered voters a genuine choice from among a broad range of political alternatives, although campaign rules were restrictive,” Chief Observer of the EUEOM) Cristian Preda said during the presentation of the preliminary report at a press conference in Colombo today.
Sri Lanka: Voters Reject Ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Election, and Prosecution May Follow | The New York Times
Sri Lankan voters decisively rejected former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s comeback bid, election results showed on Tuesday, leaving this island nation firmly in the hands of officials intent on dismantling most of his policies and completing corruption inquiries that have been closing in on him and his family. “We have lost a good fight,” Mr. Rajapaksa told Agence France-Presse early Tuesday. The election, held peacefully on Monday with high voter turnout, determined the makeup of Sri Lanka’s 225-member Parliament. As expected, Mr. Rajapaksa easily won a seat in the chamber. But his political coalition fell short of winning a majority, which he had said would have earned him the right to be named prime minister, the second-most powerful job in the government. The final results showed that Mr. Rajapaksa’s coalition lost support in every region of the country, including areas long viewed as his political base.
Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa at first conceded defeat but later rowed back, saying instead that he was unlikely to be prime minister, as figures began to come in following parliamentary elections on Monday night. Electoral authorities said the vote was orderly; however there were fears that if Rajapaksa won a mandate to be prime minister it could trigger a prolonged power struggle with the president, Maithripala Sirisena, who has said he will not appoint him regardless of the outcome. Sirisena defeated Rajapaksa to become president in a January 2015 election. “My dream of becoming prime minister has faded away,” Rajapaksa initially told the Agence France-Presse news agency on Monday night. “I am conceding. We have lost a good fight.” But speaking later to the Reuters news agency he was less definite, saying only that he was unlikely to lead the next government.
Voters lined up to vote in a national election Monday that will decide whether former president Mahinda Rajapaksa can stage a comeback and how fast the country moves forward with postwar reconciliation as well as economic and political revamping. Polling stations in the Indian Ocean island nation opened at 7 a.m. for Sri Lankans to choose 225 members of Parliament. Police said voting was going smoothly and there had been no major incidents as of the middle of the day. Around 75,000 police have been dispatched to ensure nothing interfered with the poll. Mr. Rajapaksa is seeking a return to power after he was ousted in presidential elections in January. The new president, Maithripala Sirisena, and his supporters accused Mr. Rajapaksa of abusing his power and building an authoritarian regime controlled by his family, which the former president denies.
After a gap of 10 years, the European Union (EU) has decided to send a 70-member delegation of observers to Sri Lanka for the August 17 parliamentary polls. The observers have been drawn from 17 member-countries of the EU. Apart from a core group of eight persons, the team has short-term and long-term observers and at least six Members of the European Parliament. Local observers, who are from the European diplomatic community in Sri Lanka, will also join the team, according to Cristian Preda, Chief Observer and a Romanian member of the European Parliament.
Sri Lanka’s political parties intend to contest the parliamentary elections next month submitted their lists of candidates for the fray today to the relevant district secretaries. Acceptance of nominations for the General Election scheduled to be held on 17 August 2015, ended today at 12.00 noon, the Elections Department announced. The nomination list of the government party, United National Party (UNP), which formed a common front yesterday with several other political parties against the former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, included UPFA members Minister Champika Ranawaka and Western Provincial Councilor Hirunika Premachandra.
Sri Lanka’s president dissolved parliament on Friday, a government spokesman said, in an effort to consolidate power and push through political reforms. Two government officials said elections will be held to elect a new parliament on 17 August. The president, Maithripala Sirisena, who was elected on 8 January, needs parliamentary support to push through reforms he has promised, including limits on the powers of the executive presidency. The timing of the parliamentary elections is also important. The United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to release a report in September on human rights abuses during the final phase of the war against the Tamil insurgency in 2009.
If Sri Lanka’s government moves a special parliamentary bill to empower Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in South Indian in the coming weeks, over 50,000 refugees of Sri Lankan origin will be able to vote at the forthcoming parliamentary election. Officials at Sri Lanka’s Election Commission have signalled that the vote can be facilitated if Sri Lanka, together with the Indian administration, prioritize the creation of legal structures for overseas voting. “Many other countries have their expatriates voting, from their current location. Sri Lanka can also take that route,” said Additional Election Commissioner M. M. Mohamed.
Election monitors said Thursday that voters in northern Sri Lanka were prevented from casting their ballots in an election that pits President Mahinda Rajapaksa against an ally who suddenly defected from the ruling party to run against him. The Center for Monitoring Election Violence, based in the capital of Colombo, also said a hand grenade exploded near a voting station in the northern Jaffna peninsula in the Tamil minority heartland, but that no injuries were reported. Elsewhere, voting appeared to proceed without any major incidents as people formed long lines in Colombo, and turnout was good in Tamil-dominated areas where voting had been poor in previous elections. Polls closed Thursday late afternoon and full results were expected to be announced sometime Friday.
In a stunning election result that was unthinkable just weeks ago, Sri Lanka’s longtime president acknowledged Friday that he had been defeated by a onetime political ally, signaling the fall of a family dynasty and the rise of former Cabinet minister Maithripala Sirisena. Sirisena, who defected from the ruling party in a surprise move in November, capitalized on the outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s unpopularity among this island’s ethnic and religious minorities, as well as grumbling among the Sinhalese majority about his growing power and the country’s economic troubles. Sirisena, 63 and a longtime politician, was expected to be sworn in later Friday. The wider world was watching to see if the election was carried out fairly, especially since Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in the country on Tuesday. So far, there were no signs of post-election violence.
Voters went to the polls Thursday in Sri Lanka, where President Mahinda Rajapaksa faces a fierce political battle after a onetime ally suddenly defected from the ruling party to run against him. The November defection by former Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena turned the race, which Rajapaksa had been widely expected to easily win, into a referendum on the president and the enormous power he wields over the island nation. People waited in long lines to cast their votes in Colombo, while in northern Jaffna, the ethnic Tamil heartland where voting has been poor in previous national elections, there was good early turnout.
Supporters of Sri Lanka’s ruling party has repeatedly violated election laws in the run-up to Thursday’s presidential vote and has largely got away with it because police have turned a blind eye, a local polling monitor said on Tuesday. The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) said there had been “unparalleled misuse of state resources and media” by the party of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose bid for a third term could be upset by an unexpected challenger from within his own ranks, Mithripala Sirisena. “There was impunity. No action was taken against the perpetrators or actions were mild,” Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, a convener of the CMEV, told reporters. He said police inaction had allowed election-related violence to mount, adding that most of those responsible were local councillors from Rajapaksa’s party.
Sri Lanka’s election commissioner has agreed to a set of proposals aimed at holding a transparent vote counting process, the bar association of Sri Lanka said. The proposals for the upcoming presidential election include, polls monitors to be informed of the results of the counting centers before making it officially announced. “All the proposals forwarded by us on vote counting have already been accepted”, the association president Attorney-at-Law Upul Jayasuriya told LBO. The proposals had been made in consultation with the election watchdogs including PAFFREL and CaFFE.
International observers said Sunday they had received complaints of voter intimidation before this week’s Sri Lankan presidential election, in which the incumbent faces a tough battle to win an unprecedented third term. The 55-member panel of monitors told reporters they had already received complaints that the military had set up 400 roadblocks to discourage minority Tamils from voting freely in former war zones. “According to the opposition these roadblocks are to keep away the voters… (but) we are told (by the authorities) that the military has no role to play in these election,” said the monitoring team leader S. Y. Quraishi. “We are yet to see that.” He said international observers would Monday begin fanning out to the 22 electoral districts across the island to check out the final rallies.
The plan seemed such a simple one. Mahinda Rajapaksa called an election in November expecting to breeze past a shambolic, divided opposition and take an unprecedented third term as Sri Lanka’s president. The poll, on January 8th, would be two years earlier than necessary. It would also be the first after a constitutional amendment in 2010 that abolished a two-term limit for presidents. Everything had appeared set for Mr Rajapaksa to remain in power. Now his prospects look far less certain. The campaign has been marked by a series of defections by former allies who call him authoritarian and nepotistic (among relatives in important political jobs are a brother, Basil, who is in charge of running the economy; another brother, Gotabaya, who is defence secretary and a third, Chamal, who is parliamentary Speaker). Most striking was the exit of Maithripala Sirisena. He was both health minister in Mr Rajapaksa’s cabinet and general secretary of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). On November 21st he became the main opposition candidate. The president complains bitterly that Mr Sirisena dined with him only the night before.
Sri Lanka: Government uses violence to deter opposition activities, election monitor charges | Colombo Page
A Sri Lankan election watchdog charges that the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government is using violence to deter opposition political activities. Election monitor Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) says that in parallel to electoral level campaigning by the common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena there is an increase in UPFA propagated election violence. The election monitor observes that this trend is reaching systematic proportions and slowly turning into a wave of political violence. Up to December 31st CaFFE has received 1007 incidents of election law violations and election violence and 105 of them are election violence which includes 19 incidents of firearms usage. The CaFFE has noted that the government has unleashed a systematic campaign of intimidation to intimidate opposition supporters. When Common Opposition Candidate Maithripala Sirisena holds a rally, election related violence spikes in the related area targeting opposition activists and infrastructure, the monitor observes.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has conveyed his “strong expectation” that the Government of Sri Lanka will ensure “the peaceful and credible conduct” of its upcoming Presidential election. The Secretary-General spoke on the phone with Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs Prof. GL Peiris on 24 December and reaffirmed the UN’s continuous support for reconciliation, political dialogue and accountability as the country heads towards the election on 8 January 2015.
In the days after Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, was betrayed by a group of his longtime aides, comparisons were made to Judas Iscariot and the serpent in the Garden of Eden, but nothing expressed the depth of the president’s hurt and bewilderment like the fact that the desertion had occurred just after a shared meal of hoppers. As he watched his old allies begin to stage an unexpected campaign last month to block his re-election, Mr. Rajapaksa could not help but dwell bitterly on the hoppers, pancakes made of fermented rice flour that are one of Sri Lanka’s most beloved comfort foods. He praised his new health minister, who replaced the most prominent defector, by saying he was not “someone who eats hoppers in the night and then stabs you in the back in the morning.” Mr. Rajapaksa is a famously sure-footed campaigner, so confident that he scheduled elections for Jan. 8, two years before the end of his second term. But the defections caught him unaware, and he is so jittery that he has begun promising concessions — like constitutional reforms and an investigation into possible war crimes committed during the government’s campaign against northern separatists — should he win a third six-year term.
The Sri Lankan government is facing calls from both home and abroad to establish an independent electoral commission. In the wake of a Commonwealth report on elections in northern Sri Lanka, leading opposition parties joined a call by Commonwealth election observers for the island-nation to create such an impartial body. Opposition leaders say the government should re-instate the Sri Lankan constitution’s 17th Amendment, which provides for an independent electoral commission. Under the current 18th Amendment, President Mahinda Rajapaksa can appoint a commissioner of his choice, as well as to other positions such as chief justice. “Our party has repeatedly supported the 17th Amendment to the constitution, which makes way for the setting up of a number of independent commissions for elections, police, human rights, judicial services and bribery and corruption,” said R. Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) party, whose candidate, C. V. Wigneswaran, swept the northern provincial council elections.
The Sri Lankan government has taken measures to introduce an electronic voting system to the country, a government minister revealed. Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardena has told parliament that the government has taken immediate measures to formulate the relevant legal amendments to introduce electronic voting.
Sri Lanka is planning to amend its elections law so as to enable electronic voting, according to China’s Xinhua news agency citing Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya on Monday. Speaking to media, the official said said that the government is considering to amend the current election law so that it would be possible to initiate electronic voting instead of the laborious hand counting system that is in practice now. “Large amounts of public money are spent on elections as they are done manually with the entire process needing many people and resources,” said Deshapriya.
Elections Commissioner of Sri Lanka Mahinda Deshapriya says that en electronic voting system needs to be introduced to the country. Speaking during a workshop at the BMICH, Deshapriya has observed that a large sum of money and human resources had to be invested under the current voting system. He has called on all political parties to make the necessary amendments to the Elections Act in order to enable the introduction of an electronic voting system.
Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka Election Commissioner to hold discussions on electronic voting system | ColomboPage
The Elections Commissioner’s Department of Sri Lanka is to hold a series of discussions and seminars at district level to discuss and receive proposals on the introduction of an electronic voting system for the country. Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya has decided to hold the series of discussions in three stages.
Fanning the flame of speculation regarding an electronic voting system for Sri Lankans, Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga publicly stated last week that the Government planned to introduce such a system in a bid to promote “democratic engagement” among citizens.
Making this comment as the keynote speaker at a recent event on electronic governance, the two-day FutureGov Forum Sri Lanka 2011, which was held in Colombo; he also asserted that the “whole idea of expediting government processes is to save time of citizens.
It also saves time for the public servant. The additional time available for citizens can be therefore spent productively – to engage with family members, community and voluntary work and more importantly, to live a contented life, the dream of every human being.”