ver a month has passed since the date on which President Maithripala Sirisena was scheduled to dissolve Parliament according to his 100-Day Programme presented to the people at the January Presidential Election.
Yet, he was neither able to do it nor was he able, at least, to fix a date for it on the grounds that the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution that was aimed at the reformation of the current electoral system, was not ready for the adoption.
An agreement on the 20th Amendment seems not to be within sight with the UNP apparently dragging its feet, while the minor and minority political parties were expressing reservations on it. On the other hand, Parliament has turned into a mess due to its bizarre composition, with a party smaller than the Opposition ruling the roost.
As we editorially said several times, it was hilarious to see the largest party in Parliament with around 20 members more than the absolute majority representing the Opposition, while a relatively smaller party running the government.
This is still valid since the Constitution says “The President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament, who, in his opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of the Parliament” and Parliament’s confidence has not been put to test by way of a no-confidence motion or as done in India through a confidence motion.
The government argues that this bizarre set up was valid since the people have given their mandate for it at the January 8 Presidential Election, at which President Sirisena clearly said he would appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe, then Opposition Leader, as the Prime Minister once he was elected.
If one goes by the concept of mandate alone, still the government has overstayed, since the mandate for a Maithri-Ranil government was given only up to April 23, within which the Constitutional Amendment in respect of electoral reforms should have been adopted.
The proposed 20th Amendment has been so contentious with no specific document being considered as the proposal to be discussed in Parliament. It is said that the SLFP and the JHU have prepared two documents for the purpose.
Meanwhile, Dinesh Gunawardena, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that prepared a document after meeting for several years, says that the documents that are being discussed at the Cabinet are a far cry from the one prepared by his PSC .
He says that his PSC never suggested increasing the number of MPs from 225 to 255.
This is a serious allegation.
There must be strong grounds to throw away, a report prepared by a PSC after a long consultation into the trash bin. On the other hand minor and minority political parties seem not to be happy with the documents that are currently being discussed. With the UNP playing hide and seek, the fate of the electoral reforms seems to be in the balance.
There are all signs that the situation would come to a head soon as the so-called Opposition preparing to move a No-Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister. The only way to avert such a situation is a Presidential mediation.
However, the relationship between the President and his party is such that the party members seem to be increasingly challenging the Presidents’ decisions on the one hand, and on the other, the President has selected his nominee for the Constitutional Council (CC) from another party, instead of his own party.
If a No-Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister is through, it is no doubt that a crisis situation might arise with a clash between the President and his party, which would claim the right to run the country coming to the open stage.
The covert hand of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa within the SLFP would turn the situation worse. Hence, it is prudent and good for the country to dissolve Parliament forthwith and hand over power to the people to elect a new government, unless an agreement on the electoral reforms is reached within a week or two.