‘Proposed electoral reforms will wipe out smaller parties’

Hakeem cries foul:



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Demands ‘double ballot’ to overcome the flaw


By Shamindra Ferdinando


SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem yesterday alleged that the envisaged 20 Amendment to the Constitution was meant to wipe out minority as well as smaller political parties.


The proposed electoral reforms would give undue advantage to the two major political parties, namely the SLFP and the UNP, hence inimical to others, MP Hakeem told a live interview telecast over Rupavahini.


Minister of Urban Development, Water Supply and Drainage Hakeem said that the SLMC would oppose the proposed 20 Amendment in its present form.


Responding to a query, Minister Hakeem emphasized that minority and smaller political parties both in the government and the Opposition were engaged in discussions to reach a consensus.


A key member of the previous Rajapaksa administration, the SLMC leader switched his allegiance to the then SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena in the run-up to the January 8 presidential election.


Minister Hakeem told Rupavahini that smaller and minority political parties accepted the need to bring in electoral reforms. Having reiterated the SLMC commitment to electoral reforms, Minister Hakeem said that the 19 Amendment wasn’t what the SLMC envisaged. However, the 19 Amendment had resulted in significant improvements in spite of some shortcomings, the minister said, paying a glowing tribute to President Maithripala Sirisena for voluntarily giving up his powers.


The SLMC leader said that the SLFP and the UNP had been sharply divided over the number of members elected and appointed to parliament in accordance with the proposed mixed system. Responding to another query, the SLMC chief explained ongoing efforts to form a broad coalition against the passage of the 20 Amendment in its present form.


Minister Hakeem revealed that senior representatives of the SLMC, the JVP, the LSSP, the TNA, the CWC as well as several other political parties and groups on Sunday night (June 14) discussed ways and means of countering the threat posed by the proposed mixed system. It was the second meeting. The first was attended by Ministers Rauff Hakeem, P. Digambaram, State Minister M.T. Hassen Ali, Parliamentarians M. Sumanthiran, Selvam Adaikalanathan, M. Chandrakumar, R.Yogarajan, Western Provincial Councillor Mano Ganeshan, J. Sirithunga, Sarath Athukorala, Y.L.S. Hameed, Kumar Guruparan and Ananda Manawadu.


Minister Hakeem said that in spite of assurances given by the major parties, they weren’t convinced. The minister said that the flaw in the proposed mixed system could be overcome if a double ballot was given so that at least in the choice of candidates of the parties who belonged to parties other than the main parties could secure their legitimate representation.


"In the absence of double ballot system, it will wholly distort the electoral process and the resultant position is that the parliament will not reflect the preference of the voter", he said adding that "Due to this fundamental flaw in the proposed system, we are opposed to the proposed system and call for the acceptance of the double ballot proposal before considering the other features of the proposal. The suggested number of seats is also a grave matter of concern to us."


Minister Hakeem said that minority and smaller parties couldn’t afford to lose a level playing field. The SLMC chief compared the situation faced by them with that of Wickremabahu Karunaratne, who contested the January 2010 presidential election. Although, Tamil speaking voters would have preferred to vote for him, they exercised their franchise in support of the then common candidate General Sarath Fonseka because they felt he was the only one capable of challenging President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The thinking obviously had a detrimental impact on Karunaratne who couldn’t receive the desired benefit due to the voters having faith in General Fonseka as the strongest challenger taking on Rajapaksa. Smaller and minority political parties wouldn’t want to face a similar situation where Tamil speaking voters and those believing in alternative political parties throw their weight behind one of candidates contesting from the SLFP or the UNP.


The SLMC, too, backed General Fonseka at the 2010 presidential election.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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