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MP Gammanpila constitutionally correct on presidential polls

15 February 2024 09:40 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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In his briefing to the press, the MP interprets Article 31(3) of the constitution to say that a presidential election must certainly be conducted between 18 September and 18 October 2024.


To evaluate this claim, FactCheck.lk consulted Articles 31, 32 and 40 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, and the Presidential Elections Act No. 15 of 1981.


The MP’s statement as elaborated is based on interpreting (A) the term of office of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and (B) Article 31(3) of the constitution.
On (A) the expiration of the term of office of the President is defined through Article 31(3A)(d)(ii). It states that the person declared elected as President, if not the incumbent, “holds office, for a term of five years commencing on the date on which the result of such election is declared”. 


The 2019 Presidential Election results were formally declared by the Elections Commission on 17 November 2019. Accordingly, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term commenced on this date, even though he took his oaths only on 18 November 2019, and will expire on 17 November 2024. 


On (B) the MP cites Article 31(3) of the constitution: “The poll for the election of the President shall be taken not less than one month and not more than two months before the expiration of the term of office of the President in office.” From the above analysis, the dates relevant to this article would be between 17 September 2024 (not more than two months before expiration) and 17 October 2024 (not less than one month before expiration).


However, the MP does not mention Article 31(3A)(a)(i) which has a provision that supersedes the above restriction. It allows the presidential election to be called earlier by the elected President, after four years of his term.


Nevertheless, Article 31(3A)(e) restricts that freedom stating that a person succeeding to the office of the President under the provisions of Article 40(1) shall not be entitled to seek an early election.


President Ranil Wickremasinghe was elected to the presidency by parliament, under the provisions of Article 40(1) of the constitution. Accordingly, President Wickremasinghe is unable to call for a presidential election on a date earlier than 17 September 2024.


On the above analysis, no provisions exist in the constitution or the law for the next Presidential election to be held later than 17 October, or earlier than 17 September 2024. Accordingly, MP Gammanpila is correct on the constitutionally determined time frame for holding the next presidential election, even though slightly off, by one day, on the applicable dates.
Therefore, we classify the MP’s statement as TRUE.


*FactCheck.lk’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, FactCheck.lk will revisit the assessment.

FactCheck is a platform run by Verité Research. 
For comments, suggestions and feedback, please visit www.factcheck.lk.   


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  Comments - 1

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  • Sambo Friday, 16 February 2024 08:25 AM

    Why are all the politicians and media so worried about the date of the presidential election and making a big fuss of it unless they are afraid to face elections and scaring the hell out of some public.


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