January 22, 2004
President and Premier reach agreement
Provincial polls on April
28, Next general elections - 168 seats under first-past-the post
system , Party leaders meet today to finalise matters
By Ravi Ladduwahetty
Rekindling hopes for
renewed cohabitation, President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, during yesterday's cabinet meeting,
reached consensus on a number of issues including changes in the
electoral system and agreed to hold provincial polls on April 28.
The latest move to hold
provincial polls on the date agreed ends speculation of a snap
general election as earlier demanded by the JVP which signed a
Memorandum of Understanding with the SLFP on Tuesday.
Authoritative sources said
the proposal to hold the Provincial Council polls on April 28 was
made by Premier Wickremesinghe at yesterday's meeting that lasted
half an hour and was chaired by President Kumaratunga who skipped
cabinet after November 4, 2003 when she took over three key
portfolios including defence, interior and mass communications.
Analysts said the latest
moves offered renewed hope to end the political stalemate that
lasted since November 4, affecting the current peace process and the
chances of resuming talks with the LTTE.
The date of the provincial
polls would be discussed at the party leaders' meeting to be held
today (22) and a final decision taken. The contention of the
government has been to complete the polls and the results by May 1,
the sources added. Premier Wickremesinghe and Power and Energy
Minister Karu Jayasuriya pointed out that the counting of ballots
and the announcement of the results could be completed before May 1
if the polls are held on April 28.
The government will bring
in the Amendments to the Provincial Council Act in Parliament on
February 3 to conduct the polls for all the councils on the same
day, the sources said. President Kumaratunga and the cabinet also
agreed to hold the next parliamentary polls according to new
electoral reforms for which there was agreement.
These sources told the
Daily Mirror that President Kumaratunga and the Government had both
decided to hold the next Parliamentary polls under a hybrid of the
first past-the-post and the proportional representation systems.
The President and Cabinet
agreed to have 168 MPs elected from the first-past the post system
and the remainder from the PR system but the Dinesh Gunawardena
Committeeĺ─˘s proposal to increase the number of seats in Parliament
from 225 to 280 failed to receive the nod of the Government.
There was discussion on the
basis of electing Members and a final decision on whether they were
going to be elected under PR at a district or at national level was
yet to be reached. There was also discussion on the percentage to be
allocated for MPs from the minority communities whether it be 5% or
12% of the total.
The Amendments to the
Provincial Council Act will also include the shortening of the time
period between nominations and elections, the sources said. The
present laws require the Chief Minster's approval for the
dissolution of the Provincial Council on a date prior to the