By: Shubham Ghosh
Sri Lanka’s election commission on Tuesday (7) announced April 25 as the new date for the cash-strapped country’s local election.
The local body polls scheduled for Thursday (9) were postponed due to a plethora of reasons linked to the country’s current economic crisis.
A statement from the commission said that respective district election officers would be soon announcing the new date. The announcement came as the commission held talks on Tuesday morning with officials who had been directed by the Supreme Court to facilitate the conduct of the election.
The meeting took place after last week’s order by the Supreme Court to the secretary freasury to release the budgetary allocation made for conducting of the poll for 340 local councils in the 2023 budget.
The order came as a result of the chief opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) party’s lawmakers filing a fundamental rights petition in the apex court, calling for a writ against state officials who, they alleged, were denying funds necessary to conduct the elections.
They claimed that Rs 10 billion (£25.6 million) was allocated for conducting the local election in the 2023 budget. Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe had hinted that conducting the local election with already lean state finances would only impede his efforts to revive the island nation’s crisis-struck economy.
The election to appoint new administrations to 340 local councils for a four-year term has been postponed since March last year due to the ongoing economic crisis.
The SJB alleged that President Wickremesinghe was bearing pressure as the minister of finance to block the money required for the poll as Wickremesinghe feared losing the poll.
The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna won the majority of councils in the last election held in 2018. It has suffered major splits since the economic crisis.
The election was the subject of several court cases with parties filing for and against the holding of it. The government printer had claimed that in view of the economic crisis her department had not received the funds necessary to print ballot papers. This prompted the main opposition to seek court intervention to prevail upon the release of funds necessary.
Sri Lanka was hit by an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves, sparking political turmoil in the country which led to the ouster of the all-powerful Rajapaksa family.