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Mandated for Change?

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Some of the pre-election predictions were proved while others were disproved. The last governing party was proved to have lived in a bubble and was burst by the ‘will of the people’. Some call it, ‘Peoples’ real vote’, ‘revenge vote’, ‘true democratic vote’ ‘Anti Rajapaksa vote’ and many other versions. The current president and the 100 day miracle-promise cannot afford to live yet in another bubble, because several individuals like MP Ramanayaka and some rank and file of the JVP already cautioned the new president and his coalition what could befall them as well if certain protocols agreed are not adhered to.

The previous power machine perhaps could not fathom the political developments that were made possible by various other political parties backed by an unprecedented number of civil society groups that focused on a single issue, to defeat the Rajapaksa regime. TNA and the Muslim parties whatever the arguments were definitively instrumental in the downfall of the previous power house. People with an overwhelming support tendered a unique mandate to the new president. Sirisena is now the president and is still vested with the same ‘rotten executive powers’ (Asheelaachara) just like all his predecessors at least arguably in the next few weeks. The question is, or the mockery of history is whether president Sirisena also did execute the same draconian powers, which he opposed, to nominate Ranil Wickremesinghe as the prime minister simply because he was promised. Is the 100 day process constitutionally bargained so that the executive could use his powers to bypass it?. Was the appointment of the PM constitutional? Is the 27 minister cabinet that was sworn in with those who jumped the ship, coalition parties and veteran UNPers is a PM’s cabinet or a presidential cabinet? Is the former cabinet still legitimate until the parliament is re-convened and in terms of their original mandate, or is it that by virtue of a new cabinet the old gets defunct? Does Sri Lanka have two cabinets? These are queries made around the country. These may sound pointless for the political gurus but legitimate for the millions who voted president Sirisena and those millions who did not do so. Democracy demands new questions and new answers.

100 days: two edged sword?

People mandated president Sirisena to lead the country, which meant he is also mandated to abide by the constitution when appointing a prime minister who happens to be the head of the cabinet and the lead person of the legislature under whose patronage and alongside the Speaker, the cabinet and the opposition act when national issues are debated with the supervision of the executive and the judiciary for promulgation of law and order in the country. It is this social contract that was completed and was mandated by the people in the person of the incumbent president. However, the president, seems hung between an election promise of a 100 day programme and a parliament that cannot be dissolved in view of a 2/3 majority to make changes in the constitution. What he has appointed are individuals from wide variety of ‘good-boys n girls’ chosen out of mostly from UNP (others SLFP, SLMC, NUW, ACMC & JHU, the new cabinet is yet to sit in the parliament at the time of writing).Is the new cabinet presidential or one that acquires legitimacy from a legislature justified constitution. If the incumbent president dissolves the parliament then he and the coalition won’t be able to carry on with the 100 day programme, because the country then is required to go for polls to elect a new set of members into the parliament. This scenario could easily derail the current coalition because all parties that rallied under president Sirisena would want to increase their power base in the parliament, hence causing a serious rupture of the newly formed alliance. This might be like the Gedara giyoth Ambu nasi maga sitiyoth thoo nasi scenario which demands new interpretations.

Presidential Predicament

How could the president escape the above constitutional predicament? The president could have requested the Speaker to re-convene the parliament strategically for a debate on ‘a situation probe’ which is legitimate and then proposed a vote of no confidence against the governing UPFA alliance based on fraud and corruption, and then expected a major cross over to the current opposition in parliament (what had happened so far seems un-parliamentary and ugly too as per sovereign will of the people) led by Wickremesinghe. Then with this a parliamentary majority could have nominated Wickremesinghe (not the way it happened, as it was ad hoc, un-ceremonial and un-parliamentary as well) as the new PM invited to form a caretaker government (which obviously looks national as well) under the same leadership to carry the 100 day program with president Sirisena still as head of state. Such a 2/3 majority within parliament under the coalition then could have created the constitutional council which could represent the coalition and this move would have avoided any dissolution of the parliament for the above programme to be carried side by side with a care taker government. Such a move would have rendered the Rajapaksa government defunct as well within the statues of the parliamentary process. Then the April target of dissolution of the parliament could have still been a reality and the country could have gone for a fresh general election for a stronger parliamentary mandate. Of course, above has not taken place. The political landscape in the post presidential election scene might have further changed by the time this piece goes into publication, but it’s worth imagining politically to extend the debate far and wide.

The Sixth, the Shortest, and the Last

However, the current predicament will not clear because the coalition would automatically break as every party that came together to fight a common enemy will then discover a new political rival within which is natural. Such signs will begin to appear within the first quarter of 2015, especially in the event of a general election. The JVP factor and the TNA will continue to shake the politically multi layered Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime in the months to come. People will carefully watch the players and their practice more than ever in Sri Lanka’s political history as their expectations of ‘good governance’ (yaha palanaya) has become the monitoring instrument of all political institutions and politicians. They will be put on the dock with no sympathy whatsoever which indicates an awakened political consciousness of a people which is admirable for a healthy democracy. Will the constitutional council be able to produce two systems (end executive presidential practice and the legislature led governance) within 100 days? It is an ambitious and an arduous task as it has been already predicted. Creating a constitution is not like a project submission of a graduate student, because a national constitution affects and effects many walks of life and democratic processes of a people. The current parliamentary system is based on a preferential vote under a proportional representation election procedure, if this continues then each party will fight for seats in the legislature. If they would opt for constituency representation, it would mean that the elected majority party in parliament would govern. It would then be the sixth, the shortest and the last executive president that Sri Lanka would ever have, if that was the ‘change’ they voted for.

Last modified on Sunday, 25 January 2015 11:00

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