Fears of election postponement still loom

UNP General Secretary suggested postponing polls by two years with a referendum

Speculation exists that Bandara’s remarks were intended to gauge public and political reaction

Concerns raised whether President might seek AG’s opinion on extending the presidential term with a two-thirds parliamentary majority

By Kelum Bandara

Despite assertions that the presidential election would be conducted as scheduled, political circles are abuzz with speculations that the government will try to exploit the provisions in the Constitution to extend the term of the presidential term and the parliamentary period.

Previously, United National Party (UNP) General Secretary Palitha Range Bandara said that the presidential and parliamentary elections should be postponed by two years with approval of the people by referendum.

It sparked an angry reaction both from outside and within the party. The party seniors rushed to announce that the elections should be conducted in time. The opposition parties also joined the chorus seeking the conduct of elections on schedule.

However, speculation is still rife in political circles that Mr. Bandara did not make such remarks out of the blue. It is perceived by some politicians that Mr. Bandara made such public remarks only to test the waters for a possible attempt to postpone elections.

Political circles are concerned whether President Ranil Wickremesinghe will consult the Attorney General for his opinion on the possibility of extending the current presidential term with a two-thirds majority only. The argument floated in this instance is that the six-year term limit of the President was reduced to five years in the 19th Amendment during the time of the Yahapalana government without the approval of the people by referendum.

It is argued that a referendum should be conducted to extend the term beyond six years, and therefore the current five-year limit can be extended by one more year without a referendum.
A political leader who wished to remain anonymous said there might be attempts to invoke such provisions in the Constitution to explore the possibility of postponing elections.        

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