Sri Lanka’s election watchdog has expressed concern over a delay in holding local-body polls in the country, saying it is “undemocratic” not to conduct elections.
People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) blamed the country’s political leadership including president Maithripala Sirisena and prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for the lack of political will to hold the provincial council elections which are long overdue.
“We do not see any interest in the part of both the president and the prime minister to hold elections,” Rohana Hettiarachchi of PAFFREL told reporters.
“Even if we go to court against the delay, it will take a long time to hear the case,” he said.
Hettiarachchi said it was “undemocratic not to conduct elections”.
The five-year terms of the seven out of the nine councils have ended and are now due to hold elections. However, their administrations have been put under the respective provincial governors.
The delay in holding the elections was due to the incomplete nature of the delimitation of boundaries in view of the move to change the elections system.
The existing proportional representation was to be changed into a system of hybrid – a mixture of first-past-the-post and the proportional representation.
The local council election of 2018 was held under the new hybrid system.
However, the political parties held different views on the system for the provinces. While some opted to stay with the previous proportional representation, others wanted the hybrid system.
The Opposition led by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa has accused the government of delaying the polls for the fear of losing them.
Rajapaksa’s new party won the 2018 local council election – the first time in Sri Lanka’s history that an opposition party won a local council election.
The delimitation report has to be ratified in Parliament and made law before the independent elections commission could act on it.
As the next presidential election is due between mid-November and December, it appears unlikely that provincial elections could be held this year.