Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has held a meeting with his party’s electoral organisers, fuelling speculation that the SLPF Chairman, who was recently at the centre of an unprecedented political standoff, may be hoping for a possible presidential re-run in 2019.
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLPF) organisers were summoned on Monday for the special meeting at the President’s house and were briefed about the party’s future plans and restructuring activities. “We discussed the party’s future reform drive which will be kick started in January,” said party’s general secretary Rohana Laxman. “The president told the organisers that they need to be dedicated to the reform programme,” Laxman said.
Sirisena could call a snap presidential election after January 8 next year. It was not clear if the organisers’ meeting was to gear the party for the eventuality of a snap presidential poll.
Sri Lanka’s English daily ‘Daily News’, however, reported that Sirisena instructed the SLFP electoral organisers to get ready for an “election year”, stating that the provincial and presidential elections would be held next year. He had also indicated the possibility of even a general election next year, it said.
By schedule the next presidential election must be called by November 2019 and held before January 2020.
President Sirisena, who is also the SLFP Chairman, founfd himself at the centre of an unprecedented political and constitutional crisis after he took a controversial decision and sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in an alleged illegal power grab and replaced him with ex-strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Rajapaksa was defeated by Sirisena with Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) support in the 2015 presidential election, ending Rajapaksa’s 10-year rule. However, after 3 years of bitter opposition, Rajapaksa and Sirisena patched up and Sirisena ditched Wickremesinghe, the man who elevated him to become the president.
Rajapaksa has formed his own party and did well in the local elections held early this year by defeating both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe’s parties. Rajapaksa wants a snap parliamentary election well ahead of its schedule in August 2020 as he is confident of winning it. He is constitutionally barred from running for president again.
Sirisena’s dissolution of parliament to call for a snap parliamentary election for January 5 next year was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court. The court ruling forced him to restore Wickremesinghe in office after compelling Rajapaksa to resign who failed to prove his majority in Parliament.
The provincial polls are due in the country. They have been held back due to legal issues as amendments are needed to hold them under a new system of a hybrid first-past-the-post and proportional representation systems.