At least 13 people have been arrested for allegedly breaching election rules in Sri Lanka ahead of the February 10 local council polls which is being seen as the first electoral test for President Maithripala Sirisena-led unity government. Police said the suspects are charged with flouting election laws by engaging in rallies and displaying promotional banners and flags in vehicles. The suspects were arrested in Nikaweratiya, Kahawatte, Kobeygane, Mahawa and Ambanpola.
Nominations were closed this week for elections to 341 local councils throughout the island. The election which should have been held in 2015 would be the first single day local council election in over three decades. The poll was postponed for electoral reforms and demarcation of new wards.
The new system which replaced the previous proportional representation system is a mix of first past the post and the proportional representation. It will be the first time that local government elections will be held under the new voting system, which was passed by the Sri Lanka government. Under the new system, the seats of local government was increased to 8,825 and 25 per cent quota were reserved for women.
The election has the added significance of being the first electoral test for the current unity government between President Maithripala Sirisena’s Freedom Party and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP. The MoU between the two parties is due to end in the New Year. Both leaders are set to campaign separately for their respective parties. The UNP has the majority in the central government yet still short of the 113 seats required in the 225-member national parliament.