Sri Lanka will hold the local council polls on March 9, the country’s election commission announced on Saturday, ending speculation that the election may be postponed again due to the prevailing economic crisis in the country.
The local election was earlier postponed by six months as the country was gripped by unprecedented economic turmoil which triggered a political crisis and led to the ouster of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The officials of the election commission announced that the local polls for the 340 councils in the island nation will take place on March 9.
The opposition parties have been pressing for the local election, saying it will give people a chance to show displeasure over the government’s handling of the economic crisis.
The government, however, has delayed the local polls and said the time is not suitable to hold the election given the ongoing economic crisis in the country.
The election process will reportedly cost ₹10 billion which would put additional pressure on the already lean state finances.
The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) controls a majority of councils after having won the last election held in 2018.
However, the party is in disarray since July when its leader and former President Rajapaksa was ousted in a popular uprising. It has suffered defections with members forming other electoral alliances.
After Rajapaksa’s ouster, Sri Lanka’s Parliament elected then-Acting President and six-time former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new head of the State. He had the backing of the SLPP, the largest bloc in the 225-member parliament.
The main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) is confident that they could win a majority of councils given the ruling party’s seeming unpopularity.
A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court against the conduct of the election in the backdrop of the economic crisis.
The Sri Lankan police said on Friday they have initiated an investigation into threats received by two members of the election commission, warning them to resign.
Sri Lanka is going through its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948, triggered by a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves.