The government is weighing the option of calling a general election ahead of the presidential election.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga is likely to dissolve Parliament if Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake decides to call for a presidential election this year.
Informed sources acknowledged that the Parliament has to be dissolved before Dissanayake makes the announcement.
Dissanayake recently indicated that the presidential election would be called this year. SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena, MP disputed Dissanayake.
The sources said that the government would make every endeavor to prevent Dissanayake from calling the presidential poll. President Kumaratunga recently sought Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva`s personal opinion on the interpretation of certain Constitutional clauses.
The JVP quit the ruling coalition on June 16 over sharp differences on the Oslo-led efforts to revive the peace process. The JVP has disputed the notion that the setting up of a tsunami aid sharing deal with the LTTE, in the form of Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure (PTOMS), would facilitate the resumption talks disrupted in April 2003. Talks broke down during the previous UNP administration.
Both Presidential candidates, Premier Mahinda Rajapakse and Ranil Wickremesinghe were aware of the possibility of a general election.
Interestingly both parties have named prime ministerial candidates. The UNP recently named Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya as its prime ministerial candidate after the PA/SLFP named Tourism Minister Anura Bandaranaike as its prime ministerial candidate.
But it is not clear whether an early general election would prompt the ruling coalition and the UNP to reverse their decision on their prime ministerial candidates.
The UNP at first ridiculed Bandaranaike`s selection but subsequently made its own appointment after the newly appointed Leader of the House and Health Minister Nimal Siripala challenged the opposition to reveal its choice.
Informed sources said that the government decided on Siripala`s new appointment over a week before Maithripala Sirisena announced his decision to quit as Leader of the House. The sources said that the new appointment was likely to be part of the strategy to prepare the party for, what our sources termed, the post-general election scenario in the event of a defeat. If the PA/SLFP loses the general election its prime ministerial candidate is expected to return as the Opposition Leader. Nimal Siripala is expected to retain the post of the Leader of the House.
The ruling coalition appears to have decided on an early general election as the JVP is weighing the option of fielding a candidate at the forthcoming presidential election.
According to these sources the party was also exploring the possibility of fielding a common candidate. In that case the candidate would be a non-party member.
But their first choice is Premier Mahinda Rajapakse who recently won the SLFP/PA candidacy but the JVP has indicated that it would keep its options open until it reached a workable agreement with Rajapakse.
Although Finance Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundera on Wednesday announced that the next year`s budget would be presented on November 10, the minority government stands no chance of passing the budget without the JVP`s support. Unless the UNP agreed to cooperate with the government to pass the budget, President Kumaratunga would have to dissolve parliament and call early general elections. The JVP is in no mood to return to the fold amidst widening differences over P-TOMS, the sources said, adding that this too would influence President Kumaratunga`s decision.