Sri Lanka polls: Tough choices and the way ahead

Come Monday, 17 August, and Sri Lanka would have gone to nation-wide elections for the second time in eight months. The result will determine if the January 8 presidential poll was a freak, or heralded a “change of political culture,” as claimed by the victorious combine at the time.

That combination of present-day President Maithripala Sirisena, the beneficiary of the January poll, and his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was among his benefactors at the time, could continue toddling along, in the name of ‘good governance’, their two-word passport to power at the time. Any reversal of the electoral fate for the unpredictable combine could usher in more unpredictability, what with President Sirisena declaring that post-poll, he would not invite his predecessor and fellow-party man, Percy Mahinda Rajapaksa, to become prime minister in Ranil’s place.

Therein is a hitch. The diluted 19th Amendment to the Constitution that the present duo piloted and passed through the Parliament, in which they did not command a majority, is clear that the President can invite only the leader of the single largest party or group to form a government – as is the case with any parliamentary democracy. Diluting, if not outright removing the powers of the ‘Executive President’ as promised by the duo, 19-A, has also taken away Sirisena’s powers to dissolve Parliament at the end of one year.

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