Powered by

Sri Lanka's local body polls will not be held on March 9: EC

A fresh date will be notified on March 3

SRI LANKA-RIGHTS/UN Sri Lanka flag | Reuters

Sri Lanka's Election Commission on Friday formally announced that the local body elections will not be held on March 9 as planned and a fresh date will be notified on March 3.

  The formal announcement was made after deliberations among the Election Commission officials on Friday, a day after the cash-strapped-hit country's apex court postponed hearing a petition against the holding of the polls until May.

The Commission will now seek the Speaker of Parliament, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena's intervention to secure requisite funds from the Treasury to conduct the polls.

Earlier this month, the Election Commission informed the Supreme Court that it was difficult to conduct local body polls on March 9 due to a plethora of reasons linked to the country's current economic crisis.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday stressed that his job as the president was, at this stage, to revive the crisis-struck economy, hinting that conducting the local election with already lean state finances would only bring additional pressure.

But opposition parties like the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) pin the blame on Wickremesinghe, who is also the country's finance minister, for trying to sabotage the local body election, fearing a loss, by blocking the funds from the Treasury.

They are also accusing him of influencing the state officials and the Election Commission against the holding of the polls.

The SJB party's lawmakers filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court calling for a writ against state officials who they alleged were denying funds necessary to conduct the elections.

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 government has indicated repeatedly that the time was unsuitable to hold the election, given the economic crisis, due to a shortage of foreign reserves.

It said the scarcity of money to hold the election costing Rs 10 billion would bring additional pressure on the already lean state finances.

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.

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 that led to the ouster of the all-powerful Rajapaksa family. 

📣 The Week is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TheWeekmagazine) and stay updated with the latest headlines