he country seems to be facing a tricky situation after the election of Maithripala Sirisena as the President, with the support of the parliamentary Opposition. Now it is not clear as to what party wields the majority power in the Parliament since the crossover trend has not ceased yet. Unless the new President wins over a sizable portion of the parliamentary group of the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) to his fold he would not be able to fulfill many of his promises.
Even Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe runs the risk of facing a no-confidence motion by the UPFA in the Parliament unless the President wins over the confidence of the majority of the Parliament- at least the support of 113 MPs, 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 Parliament.”
Going by the mind change among the UPFA Parliamentarians even after the Presidential election, one may infer that President Maithripala Sirisena would garner enough support from the UPFA ranks soon to safeguard the Prime Minister and to fulfil many of his promises that would need the simple majority in the Parliament. However, it is still not clear as to how he is going to deliver in matters pertaining to Constitutional changes as it needs two thirds of parliamentary majority-that is the support of more than 150 MPs. This matter is more important since the first promise Mr. Sirisena gave the country soon after he defected from the UPFA and announced his presidential candidacy on November 21 was the abolition of the Executive Presidency.
The new leaders of the New Democratic Front (NDF) under which Mr. Sirisena contested the Presidential election have gradually changed their stance from abolition to trimming of powers of the executive presidency for which too he may need the two thirds of parliamentary power. The situation seems to be a double-edged sword, since the country runs the risk of history repeating with a UPFA President and a UNP dominated Opposition, if the President garners excessive support from the UPFA while on the other hand he would not get the two thirds of parliamentary majority in order to deliver what he promised, unless a sizeable number of UPFA MPs come forward to support him.
However, it is important that he keeps his promise to abolish the Executive Presidency, since it has proved to be a curse for the country. The contention that it helped crush the terrorism is illogical as many countries had countered terrorism and won wars with other countries without it. India is the best case in point. It had routed the deadly Naxalites from many States of the country and the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) from the State of Assam.The bottom line is that executive powers would vanish into thin air just because they are transferred to the Parliament. On the other hand as JHU Chairman Ven. Rathana Thera recently said the Executive Presidency is not the answer to the terrorism rather it has been the reason for the latter as its despotic nature frustrates the masses.
Also with the Executive Presidency the country sometimes gets a distorted picture of democracy, with the President being affiliated to one party while another party wields the Parliamentary majority as we saw soon after Mr. Sirisena was elected to the post of President. The country’s experience during the period between 2001 and 2004 when we had a PA President and a UNP led Parliament tells how complex the situation was. And the capture of the parliamentary as well as the Presidential power by the same party leads to the prolonged rule by that party leading in turn to large-scale corruption and tyranny. Hence, it is important for the new President to take steps to scrap the system forthwith.