COLOMBO: Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) swept the all-island local bodies elections held on February 10, has demanded snap elections to the Sri Lankan parliament saying that the local body election results have clearly shown that the government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has lost the popular mandate.

Speaking to the media here on Monday, Rajapaksa said that parliamentary elections should be held before the Presidential elections.

In other words they should be held before January 8, 2020.

As per the present schedule, parliamentary elections are due only in August 2020. And as per the constitution, a mid-term election can called only one and a half years before that date.

However, parliament can pass a resolution with two thirds majority to have an election even earlier than that.

The SLPP is aware that this route to early elections may be difficult given the present composition of parliament. But the idea is not so much to have early elections but to corner and embarrass the government whose constituent parties have performed poorly in the latest country-wide polls.

The demand is also meant to keep up the SLPP’s political momentum and the enthusiasm of its workers who are all charged up.

Rajapaksa said that the SLPP is a movement for political and economic change and the movement is on its onward march.

He said he is not in a hurry to capture power. “But people are in a hurry,” he added.

“The people want a functioning government, economic progress, the maintenance of Sri Lanka’s unity and integrity and the safeguarding of its armed forces. All these had suffered a setback under the rule of the incumbent government,” he pointed out.

The incumbent government has borrowed from abroad more than his government did in its nine year existence. His government finished the war spending just US$ 2 billion while the present one has gone on a borrowing spree even as development works have been languishing for two and a half years.

Asked if he would join with a section of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to form a united SLFP government (The SLPP is but a breakaway group of the SLFP), Rajapaksa said that supporters and workers of the SLFP had already switched to the SLPP.

“Only the SLFP leaders are with the party now. The workers and supporters have already crossed over, as the poll results show,” Rajapaksa said.

New Constitution

On the fate of the new constitution, work on which has ground to a halt, Rajapaksa said that the people will have to decide on it in an election.

“First let’s have an election,” he said.

Rajapaksa and his allies are opposed to the work on the new constitution which appears to be favoring greater devolution of power to the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The former President who could not get the support of the minority Tamils and Muslims in the January 8, 2015 Presidential elections and lost, asserted that he had got Tamil support in the February 10 elections.

He pointed to a colored map showing the election results, and remarked: “See, even Eelam (separatist Tamil areas) has been reduced!”

Asked what his policy would be to India and China, he said: “That I will talk about in a separate meeting.”