Battle of Titans in Colombo

Longest ballot paper in Digamadulla

By Ishtartha Wellaboda
Closing of nominations for the upcoming Parliamentary General Election on Friday saw a total of 7,680 candidates from 366 registered political parties and 301 independent groups entering the fray to vie for 196 Parliamentary seats at stake.

Of the 370 nomination papers submitted by the independent groups, 69 were rejected and of the 366 nominations filed by recognised parties 30 were rejected.

An unusual feature thrown up by the nominations for the coming general election is an unprecedented 17 political parties and 49 independent groups entering the fray in the Digamadulla District requiring the election authorities to print a several feet long ballot paper. The Digamadulla District as a result, accounts for 660 candidates vying for seven seats, trailing behind 836 candidates competing for 19 seats in Colombo, the highest number for all districts.

The major political parties, the ruling UPFA, UNP and the new JVP-DNA combine led by General Sarath Fonseka are contesting in all 22 districts. The SLFP-led UPFA whose main constituents are the LSSP, CP, MEP and the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party are contesting this election too under the ‘Betel leaf’ symbol. The CWC led by Arumugam Thondaman, which contested in alliance with the UNF at the last General Election is in the running at this election under the ‘Betel leaf’ symbol of the UPFA. The NUA led by Minister Ferial Ashraff is not contesting this election and she recently obtained the membership of the SLFP.

The UNP-led combine UNF failed to obtain recognition as a political party. Therefore, all the constituents of the UNF – UNP, SLMC, SLFP (M) and the DPF are contesting as the UNP under the ‘Elephant’ symbol.
The TNA is contesting all districts in the North and East under the banner of ITAK (Ilangai Thamil Arasu Kachtchi). The EPDP, a UPFA coalition partner is going alone in the Wanni District. Meanwhile, the TMVP, another political party supporting the UPFA government is contesting alone in the five districts in the North and East and in Polonnaruwa.

Former Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara who was returned to last Parliament as a UNP member from the Badulla District has been offered a slot on the UPFA National List.

His second son Udith Lokubandara, who was appointed the UPFA organiser for Haputale, a seat his father represented in Parliament for many years, is in the running at this election under the ‘Betel leaf’ symbol of the UPFA in the Badulla District. Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, Ministers D.M. Jayaratne and Achala Suranga Jagoda who contested the last general election are being fielded on the National List at this election. Minister Jayaratne, a very senior member of the SLFP and a veteran politician is tipped to be appointed the Prime Minister in the event of the UPFA returning to power.

UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake, Chairman Rukman Senanayake and Joseph Michael Perera who contested previous elections have been offered slots on the UNP National List at this election.
JVP’s former Parliamentary Group Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who contested the last election, is being fielded on the DNA National List at this election. The National Organiser of the SLFP (M) is seeking election from the DNA National List although his party leader Mangala Samaraweera is contesting in the Matara District under the ‘Elephant’ symbol. Arjuna Ranatunga’s younger brother Sanjeewa Ranatunga is also a candidate on the DNA National List.

Sitting PC members account for a sizable number of candidates fielded by the main political parties at this election. Of the 68 UPFA PC members of the Western PC, eight are in the fray at this election while, of the 30 UNP members of this PC 20 are in the running in the Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha Districts.
The sixth Parliament was dissolved on February 8 and the last sitting of it was held on February 5. The new Parliament will meet on April 22.