LG polls under PR system:
CaFFE lashes out at govt

The Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) states that the government decision to conduct the coming Local Authorities Election under Proportional Representation (PR,) when all major political movements have agreed to First Past the Post system will lead to a stagnation of representative democracy.

A press release issued by the CaFFE yesterday(2) said: "The Sri Lankan government will dissolve all Local Government Institutions next week in preparation for holding local polls in March 2011. Although the government earlier intended to hold the local government elections under a new mix system of First Past the Post and the proportional representation it suddenly decided to carry on with the PR system.

Civil society groups, intellectuals and pressure groups have been pushing the government to re-introduce the First Past the Post system where small electorates will have their own representative. They felt that the PR system had degenerated to such an extent where it encourages violence and creates an uneven playing field that favours candidates that can spend the most.

The present international trend is to encourage concerned citizens/professionals, pressure groups and members of minorities to contest for local governing bodies so that local issues can be addressed. This can be best achieved through First Past the Post system.

The government presented the Local Government Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill in October and the two main political parties have agreed to this with slight amendments. Although there are some visible weaknesses in the bill CaFFE believes it is a step in the right direction since all committees appointed to look into electoral reforms, 1999 Commission of inquiries on local authorities and Parliamentary Select Committee on elections led by Dinesh Gunawardane, have recommended to return to First Past the Post system.

The government will present the Local Authorities Elections Amendment Bill for debate in parliament on January 4 but has decided not to pass the legislation. Since there is an agreement between the government and the main opposition party the bill could have been passed in parliament with an overwhelming majority. Therefore CaFFE wonders what made the government backtrack on a piece of legislation which it pushed very hard initially.

Therefore CaFFE requests all political parties, including the UPFA to pass the Local Authorities Elections

Amendment Bill and hold the coming elections using First Past the Post system.

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