By Jehan Perera –
President Maithripala Sirisena has announced his intention to seek the passage of the 20th Amendment to the constitution as a priority. The reforms envisage an electoral technique in which the majority of parliamentary seats will be obtained on the initial-previous-the post system, even though maintaining to an general proportional outcome. The expertise at elections held below the present proportional method with a preferential voting alternative has been a damaging 1. It has been marked by heavy expenditures by candidates who have to contest considerably larger district-sized electorates and has also led to in-fighting by candidates inside the identical political party for the preferential votes that will get them elected.
The promise of a adjust in the electoral program was one particular of the key promises in the election manifesto of President Sirisena in the course of the presidential election campaign. In terms of constitutional reforms, it was alongside the promises to minimize the direct powers of the presidency on the one hand, and to establish a non-partisan constitutional council to oversee non-partisan appointments becoming made to crucial institutions of the state, such as the judiciary, police, public service and elections commission. The government has received considerably commendation for having passed the 19th Amendment within the 1st 100 days of President Sirisena’s election victory.
However, the passage of the 19th Amendment was not easy. There were several opinions and vested interests involved in the approach of decision generating. At occasions it seemed that the 2/3 majority necessary for constitutional adjust would not be located. The passage of the 19th Amendment was only created feasible by the cohabitation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who heads the present UNP government with President Sirisena who heads the SLFP opposition who had been capable to persuade their respective party members to give their assistance to the constitutional amendment. This identical political configuration exists today and offers the hope that it can be utilized to offer a equivalent effective outcome in the case of the 20th Amendment.
Unfortunately, with the passage of time the spirit of rivalry between the two principal political parties in the country has elevated, and not decreased, which tends to make the passage of the 20th Amendment much less probably. The UNP is concerned that the 20th Amendment will be utilised to delay the speedy dissolution of Parliament which was part of the President’s election manifesto. It is in the interests of the opposition to continue with the present parliamentary configuration for as long as achievable, and till April 2016 when the term of the present parliament lapses. This is on account of each their worry that they will not be a component of Parliament once more, and their hope that the present government becomes significantly less common with the passage of time. Their interest lies in obtaining the basic elections later rather than sooner.
The election manifesto of the alliance of political parties that supported the candidacy of President Maithripala Sirisena highlighted a 100 day plan soon after which Parliament would be dissolved and fresh elections would be referred to as. Following the passage of 150 days because the election of President Sirisena the government formed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe appears to be operating out of steam. The imbalance among a ruling celebration with a mere 43 seats in a Parliament of 225 members in which the biggest opposition party has 126 seats has begun to take its toll. The engine of the government, it is clear, is too small, and can’t pull the load any a lot more specifically when the terrain is receiving uphill.
The problem faced by the government was evident in the fiasco over the appointment of the Constitutional Council which was to be set up below the 19th Amendment. This body will be the most prestigious and critical institution of state, vested with the power to pick those who would make certain that other institutions of state, such as the judiciary, police, public service and elections commission are non-partisan and would preserve the independence of these key institutions. According to the 19th Amendment the appointments to the Constitutional Council would be mostly the duty of the President, Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition with the leaders of the smaller sized parties also obtaining an input.
A fortnight ago it seemed that the appointments to the Constitutional Council were on track, with the names of those who had been to be members announced. Nonetheless, the choice of the President, Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition has not been ratified by Parliament. As a outcome there is a deadlock exactly where it concerns appointments to crucial state institutions. An example is the Bribery Commission which has been in the news over the past a number of months as it has received a plethora of complaints against members of the former government who are now in the opposition. 1 of the Bribery Commissioners has resigned but can not be replaced due to the fact the Constitutional Council is not however constituted. As a result the Bribery Commission as well remains with no a Commissioner and unable to take up new cases.
The lacuna that has beset governance is not limited to institutions of state. It also has implications for government policy. The government which has a ruling party of only 43 members in a parliament of 225 can’t pass legislation in parliament unless the much larger opposition in parliament agrees. The parliamentary opposition has tiny or no incentive to cooperate with the government as is interest lies in weakening the ruling party and showing it to be ineffective. This has a damaging effect on all areas of governance, not least the economy. The financial dividend that was anticipated after the replacement of the former government has however to materialize.
The present stalemate in governance has mobilized sections of civil society to issue a contact for the quick dissolution of parliament. They noted that “there is a rising perception of crisis and instability, which cannot be permitted to take root. The economy cannot afford this lack of political direction for a lot longer, and as importantly, the hope and aspiration produced by the modify of government in January demands both clarity in promises being kept and further progress in reforms, particularly with regard to devolution and energy-sharing. The time is ripe as a result for fresh parliamentary elections which would let the folks of Sri Lanka to have their say on reforms already enacted and to mandate the path of the government for the subsequent five years.”
A considerable quantity of work and compromise has gone into the preparation of the new electoral method. Most of the parties, such as the small and ethnic minority parties have expressed their willingness to go along with it. The ideal that can be hoped for is that the 20th Amendment is finalized without any much more delay and placed before Parliament. Nevertheless, the overriding priority is for the country to have an effective government that is primarily based on the present political realities, and not those that existed 5 years ago in 2010, when the present parliament was elected. The pursuit of consensus to receive a two/three majority to pass the 20th Amendment need to not stand in the way of elections for a new parliament. The overriding value of elections and new government leadership was noticed greatest at the presidential election that took location on January eight this year, which has transformed life in the nation.