Choking on the ward system
Parliament passed the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act No
22 of 2012, in October 2012 with the objective of addressing issues
concerning the present electoral system, which is usually marred by
violence due to the existing Proportional Representation system or
popularly known as manape system to elect representatives to Local
Therefore, the enactment of the Local Authorities Elections
(Amendment) Act was considered a step towards bringing the much needed
electoral reforms mainly to elected politicians who would be accountable
to their constituents.
The long awaited electoral reforms to the Local Government election
was a result of the formation of the Parliament Select Committee on
Electoral Reforms, comprising 32 Members in 2006. It was in June 2007,
the Parliament Select Committee handed over their recommendations to
bring sweeping reforms in the electoral system in the country.
Introduction of a mixed system of the First Past the Post and
Proportional Representation in the Local Authorities elections was among
the recommendations of the committee and Local Authorities Elections
(Amendment) Act was resulted based on those recommendations.
The Act reintroduces the ward system, whereby a Local Authority is
divided into a number of electoral units. Each ward elects one member,
unless in the case of a multi-member ward.
The election of the members to the Local Bodies has to be done
through a mixed system of First Past the Post system and the
According to this new system 70 percent of the members would be
elected under first past the post system while another 30 percent
members to be elected under the proportionate system based on the lists
forwarded by the political parties.
After the Bill was passed in 2012, the Provincial Councils and Local
Government Ministry, in 2013, took steps to form the National
Delimitation Committee on Local Government Bodies for the task of
demarcating wards in each Local Authority area and after long and
arduous process the National Delimitation Committee handed over its
report to former Public Administration Minister Karu Jayasuriya in May
Though the Local Government election was scheduled to be after March
2015, the Government extended the terms of those Local Bodies with the
aim of conducting the elections for all 335 Local Bodies on a single
date under the new system.
However, as the country is preparing to try out this system at the
next local polls, now there is a doubtful situation about conducting the
next election under this new system as political parties expressing
diverse opinion on the conduct of the election under this new system.
First it was the UNP, the strongest party in the consensus
government, that decided not to conduct the election under the new
electoral system but under the proportionate representation system.
According to Deputy General Secretary of the UNP Minister Akila Viraj
Kariyawasam, the main argument of the UNP is that the demarcation of the
wards system has been done to favour one political party and the wards
system has to be re-reviewed if the Local Authorities elections are to
be conducted under the new system.
However, President Maitripala Sirisena has made it clear that Local
Government election should be conducted in accordance with the Amended
Local Authorities Elections Act, to elect members to the Councils
through a combination of the First Past the Post system and the
Proportionate Representation System.
Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Faizer Musthapha
addressing the media at the SLFP headquarters said the SLFP’s stance is
to conduct the Local Government Elections under the new system giving
people an opportunity to elect a responsible representative from their
The Minister, however said a Cabinet Sub Committee has been appointed
to look into the issues regarding the implementation of the new
electoral system at the next local polls to be conducted in March next
However, the final decision on the issue is to be taken after the
discussion between the President and the Prime Minister on the
recommendation of the Cabinet Sub Committee.
Although the implementation of the new Local Authority electoral
system is debated in the political front the final touches to the
demarcation of the ward system is yet to be done for the implementation
of the new electoral system.
The National Delimitation Committee on Local Government councils has
proposed the number of members to be elected under a ward-based system
to be increased to 5,081, an increased of 595 members.
Demarcation of wards
Under the new system, LG members will be elected under the
First-Past-the Post system (FPP) to 4,573 wards, while two members each
will be selected to 241 wards. There will also be nine wards where three
members each will be elected.
H.T. Kamal Pathmasiri, Secretary to the Local Government and
Provincial Councils told the Sunday Observer that the gazette
notification on the proposed ward system has already been signed by the
President and will be sent to the Government Printer this week.
Commenting on the concerns raised by political parties that the
demarcation of wards had been done in favor of one political party he
said political parties will be given a chance to raise objections and
“Once the gazette on the National De-limitation Report on Local
Government is issued the political parties will be given a chance to
file their objections and suggestions on the demarcated wards. That
opportunity will be given to the civil society organizations too”, the
He said a Ministerial Sub Committee has been appointed to look into
the matter and the Ministerial Sub Committee consist of the Ministers
Kabir Hashim, Susil Premajayantha, Duminda Dissanayake and Faizer
Musthapa will meet on September 29 to discuss the issues relating to the
electoral system to decide on the election method.
He said some amendments to the Act has to be made for the proper
implementation of the new electoral system and those amendments are now
with the Legal Draftsman’s Department.
Rohana Hettiarachchi, Executive Director of the election monitoring
body PAFFREL said that they are very much in favour of conducting the
Local Government election under the new system despite certain technical
shortcomingss when it comes to the implementation process.
He also agreed that the demarcation of wards were done in favour of
one political party during the previous regime adding that though
political parties were given opportunities to make their suggestions and
proposals that was not adequate.
“But that should not be an excuse not to implement the system as it
was the will of the people to get rid of t he electoral race and
introduce a system where people can elect their own representatives.
Therefore, political parties should not take decisions only for their
advantage but should consider the welfare of the country,” he added.