Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have decided to go for a Vote on Account and not a vote of Confidence in their government when parliament meets later this month.
If the government wins the Vote on Account it means that the Rajapaksa government has enough support in parliament and that the government can stay. It is as good as a Vote of Confidence.
But on the other hand, if it is defeated on account of the ability of the opposition United National Front (UNF) to stay together, the President can dissolve parliament and order fresh elections.
On Monday the Education and Higher Education Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who had earlier defected from the UNP, told newsmen that President Sirisena has ‘inherent powers’ to dissolve Parliament in case the Vote on Account is defeated.
The minister, said the President has such powers to dissolve Parliament without waiting for four and half years as per the constitution.
“If the Vote on Account is not approved by Parliament, there will arise a situation where the government is unable to function. The President can then opt to dissolve Parliament to resuscitate the country from an anarchic situation. That is not a written law but a conventional practice,” Rajapakshe explained.
The Sirisena-Rajapaksa combine expects to win snap elections because of its populist, Sinhalese-Buddhist and Sri Lankan nationalist credentials – parameters on which the UNF led by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) is weak in comparison.
Therefore, the Sirisena-Rajapaksa group stands to gain whether the Vote on Account is passed or not.
The threat of parliament dissolution may also have been designed to make MPs vote for the Vote on Account and also to encourage other UNP MPs and others in the opposition to join the Sirisena-Rajapaksa government or extend support to it.
This is because, most MPs would like to complete their term and not go for another expensive election immediately.
This is the reason why the former UNP MP, Wijedasa Rajapakshe who is now with the government was asked to call the media hurriedly to announce the matter.
Meanwhile, the government refuted reports that Prime Minister Rajapaksa and President Sirisena had said that the prorogued parliament will be reconvened on November 5.
It is now said that no date has been fixed yet, though the expectation is that it will be date before Novermber 16.
A source in the Sirisena-Rajapaksa camp said that the government needs time to work on the Vote on Account and also announce price reductions to give an impression that it is pro-people.
Already the government has increased the tax on imported potatoes and onions at the rate of LJR 40 per kilo in order to help local farmers.
The unpopular fuel price formula is also to be revised to make it more consumer friendly.