Wishing for a Hung Parliament

Can a hung Parliament that is widely predicted in the run-up to Sri Lanka's 10 October general elections, be the troubled country's great opportunity to abandon the traditional confrontational politics, and work towards a consensual government and the resolution of the ethnic problem that has led to a 17-year-long civil war? Some analysts and intellectuals looking for positive aspects of an otherwise grim scenario concede the possibility.

Most observers agree that neither President Chandrika Kumaratunga's ruling People's Alliance (PA) or the opposition United National Party (UNP) led by Ranil Wickremesinghe, are likely to win a comfortable working majority in the 225-member Parliament, particularly in the context of the country's proportional representation system of elections that makes large majorities improbable, if not impossible. Although the picture can change in the four weeks before the poll, as Liberal Party leader Professor Rajiva Wijesinha says, "Unless there is a lot of cheating, no party will get an absolute majority." S.L. Gunasekera who leads the new Sinhala Urumaya Party emphatically agrees: "A hung Parliament is a certainty if there is a free and fair election."

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Himal Southasian