President Sirisena categorically has asked the Central Committee of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to rev up the party’s engine ahead of elections next year.
Though President Maithripala Sirisena reappointed United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, he vowed that he would not have political ties with the new Government. True to his words, he declined to swear in anyone from his United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) in the new Cabinet despite requests made by the UNP. He also turned down a request to form a national unity Government.
The affirmed position of the President was reflected once again on his decision to delay the assignment of subjects to the new Ministries. The Gazette notification is yet to be released announcing the subjects and the institutions coming under each Ministry. It has handicapped the Ministers who wish to carry out their work diligently.
- The President is not cooperating with the Government
- Accordingly, the President seems to be asserting himself in full measure
- The UPFA has renewed its efforts in terms of re-organising
The President is at present on an overseas visit, and expected in the country next week. The assignment of institutions can be expected only after his return. Until such times, the newly sworn in ministers will remain tightened in the discharge of their duties, barring the execution of normal routine work.
The assignment of subjects and institutions are also difficult tasks this time. Compared with the Cabinet of the Government that existed before October 26, each Minister has a wider scope. The subjects and the institutions that were spread among a few Ministries have to be placed under the purview of one minister or ministry this time.
For example, there were separate ministers for northern development and vocational training in the previous Cabinet. As of present, both have been brought under the Prime Minister since the size of the Cabinet has to be restricted to 30 members. Probably, this is also a reason for the delay in gazetting subjects and institutions. Yet, it is not impossible to do it within a short span of time if the President is fully-hearted with the Cabinet at this hour.
The UPFA is keen to see a snap general election which can possibly come about only through a parliamentary declaration by two-thirds approval
The President is not cooperating with the Government. He indicated it first by refusing to stand for a group photo with the new Cabinet of Ministers. Secondly, he disregarded some nominees by the Prime Minister for Cabinet posts. Now, he has delayed the assignment of subjects.
According to the 19th Amendment, the President has to appoint ministers to the Cabinet in consultation with the Prime Minister. However, the President has more authority in the assignment of subjects to them. Accordingly, the President seems to be asserting himself in full measure.
On a bumpy road
Therefore, the Government is expected to travel on a bumpy road when its members get to charge their duties. Importantly, the next year would be an election year, and the political parties are now bracing for it. The Presidential Elections are due to be conducted by the end of 2019. Besides, elections are overdue regarding six provincial councils.
The UPFA, which is virtually a combination of factions led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, is keen to see a snap general election which can possibly come about only through a parliamentary declaration by two-thirds approval.
Besides, the UNP is agitating for a snap presidential election. Of course, the President can declare such an election at any time after January 8, next year if he wishes to seek a fresh mandate for himself to run for a second term only. Otherwise, the Presidential Elections have to be conducted by the end of 2019 according to the election calendar. Therefore, the parties would make every possible move to appease voters; that is by giving relief and avoiding unpopular policy decisions.
On this score, the UNP would avoid policy clashes with the President as much as possible. In fact, it will opt for a fully pledged Budget early next year with a host of relief measures for people as part of its preparations for the elections on the cards.
Already, Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera has announced that he will present a Budget during the first quarter of next year. During the first three and half years of its rule, the UNP tried to implement its economic reforms, an act that riled constituents on some instances. Tax reforms, the leasing out of the Hambantota Port and the plan to lease out the Mattala airport and the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm were such measures that were not populist. Now, the UNP is unlikely to resort to such moves. Instead, it would allocate more money in the upcoming Budget for investment in the public sector. Also, there will be relief measures for farmers and public servants. Practically speaking, it will be difficult for the UNP to proceed with its reform agenda because the President stands in the way. Alongside, a sizeable number of UNP MPs are carrying out an internal struggle for a new leadership to steer the party at the future elections. Some of them even make open remarks to this effect. Recently sworn in Non-Cabinet Minister Ajith P.Perera, at a function in Kolonnawa, referred to Minister Sajith Premadasa as the President to be in a few months’ time. The UNP enters the New Year with preparations for elections while grappling with an internal struggle for a new leadership.
Though the UNP, in general, seeks a presidential election, a section of the party is in favour of a resolution to be adopted by Parliament to conduct a snap parliamentary election. But, it is resisted by others within the party. Come what way, the Government will proceed with its work next year bearing in mind the vital national elections, be it presidential or parliamentary.
Though the UNP, in general, seeks a presidential election, a section of the party is in favour of a resolution to be adopted by Parliament to conduct a snap parliamentary election. But, it is resisted by others within the party
The UPFA has renewed its efforts in terms of re-organising to position itself to contest elections. President Sirisena categorically asked the Central Committee of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to rev up the party’s engine ahead of elections next year.“You have to consider the next year as an election year,” he told the Central Committee. Also, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to launch a re-organization campaign.
The SLPP and the SLFP are also in touch with each other these days on the formation of a new political alliance. Instead of the UPFA, these two parties will register a new alliance under a fresh symbol next year. The faction, loyal to Rajapaksa, decided to stand by the President in case the UNP moves to impeach him.An impeachment motion against the President will be moved by the UNP only in the event of the President becoming increasingly hostile towards it.