Sri Lanka successfully conducted the Parliamentary elections on Wednesday. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa emerged victorious by securing 59.09 percent votes. SLPP secured total 145 seats including the National Lists seats in the 225 member parliament. A newly formed alliance called Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) secured total 54 seats. The main Tamil Party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) secured 10 seats. Janatha Vimukti Peramuna led Jathika Jana Balawegaya secured three seats. The oldest party of Sri Lanka, the United National Party (UNP), which led the National Unity Government from 2015-2019, managed to receive one seat in the parliament through national lists. It should be noted that as Sri Lanka follows the proportional representation electoral system, out of 225 seats in the Parliament, 29 seats are allocated through national lists and 198 are elected through universal adult franchise.
This time, the elections were held under extraordinary conditions due to the outbreak of Coronavirus. Sri Lanka is the first country in South Asia to conduct an election amidst the global pandemic. Despite the apprehension and fear of spread of Coronavirus, the total voter turnout in Wednesday’s election was 71 percent. Special arrangements were made in all the 12,985 polling stations across the country as per the gazette notification on the health guidelines issued to conduct the elections to prevent community spread and outbreak of the COVID-19. Around 10,000 health workers; 69,000 police personnel and 300,000 Government officials were involved in election duty. The elections were largely conducted in a peaceful atmosphere except a few cases of violent incidents and violation of electoral laws.
Following the outcome of the result, Mahinda Rajapaksa thanked the people of Sri Lanka for placing trust on him, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his party, and assured that Sri Lanka will not stand disappointed during his tenure. The key policy priority of the SLPP led Government, as mentioned in the manifesto, would be: priority to national security; Friendly, Non-aligned foreign policy; An administration free from corruption; New Constitution that fulfils the people’s wishes; Productive citizenry and a vibrant human resources; People centric Economic development, Technology based society, Development of physical resources, sustainable environmental management; Disciplined, law abiding and values based society. To implement these policies, particularly to bring a new constitution, the Government would require two-third majority.
With the support of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party’s (EPDP) two seats and SLFP’s one and Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP)’s one seat, the SLPP already enjoys almost two-thirds majority, short of one seat in the Parliament to bring in proposed reforms and implement the announced policies. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa through proclamation has summoned the newly elected Parliament on August 20, 2020. The composition of the 16th Parliament will be clear on its first meeting on August 20.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to his Sri Lankan counterpart Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa and congratulated him on the successful conduct of parliamentary elections in the island-nation. Prime Minister Modi commended the government and the electoral institutions of Sri Lanka for effectively organising the elections despite the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also appreciated the Sri Lankan people for their enthusiastic participation in the elections, and said that this reflected the strong democratic values shared by both countries.
The Indian Prime Minister noted that the results of the elections show an impressive electoral performance by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, and conveyed his congratulations and best wishes to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Recalling the cordial and fruitful previous interactions, the two leaders reiterated their shared commitment to strengthen the age-old and multi-dimensional India-Sri Lanka relationship. They stressed the significance of early progress in all spheres of bilateral cooperation.
Prime Minister Modi informed Mr. Rajapaksa about the establishment of an international airport in the Buddhist pilgrimage city of Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, India, and said that the city looked forward to welcoming visitors from Sri Lanka at an early date.
Both leaders agreed to remain in close touch as both countries address the challenges posed by COVID 19 pandemic, and resolved to take bilateral relations to newer heights in the coming days.
Script: Gulbin Sultana, Analyst on Indian Ocean Region