Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Bankrupt Local elections in Sri Lanka will be postponed

Bankrupt Sri Lanka set to postpone local elections


COLOMBO: A high-ranking official claims that bankrupt Sri Lanka will delay the upcoming local elections, which prompted opposition protests on Tuesday and the suspension of parliament.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe took office in July after months of protests over a dire economic crisis. The vote on March 9 was intended to be a crucial test of support for him.

The Election Commission submitted in court that the treasury has refused to pay for fuel, polling booth security, or the printing of ballot papers.

Election Commission chief Nimal Punchihewa told AFP, "I had given an undertaking to the Supreme Court recently that the poll will be held on time."

"However, I am now informing the court that we won't be able to do it because the government is not releasing the necessary funds," the defendant stated.

The president had previously stated that elections were impossible due to insufficient state revenue to maintain essential services, pay salaries, and pay pensions.

In an effort to secure a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, Wickremesinghe, who succeeded Gotabaya Rajapaksa after protesters stormed the presidential palace, has implemented drastic price increases and tax hikes.

On Tuesday, opposition lawmakers held placards in protest of what they claimed was a government attempt to cling to power by avoiding voter scrutiny.

MP for the opposition Wimal Weerawansa stated, "The government is using the economic crisis to suppress democracy and sabotage elections."

Although a decision from Sri Lanka's highest court is anticipated on Thursday, it is uncertain whether the government would have the funds to proceed even if the judge orders that the elections continue.

It has been estimated that the vote will cost about $27.5 million, or 10 billion rupees.

Sri Lanka, home to approximately 22 million people, defaulted on its $46 billion external debt in April after experiencing acute shortages of essentials for more than a year and hyperinflation.

With the support of Rajapaksa's SLPP party, Wickremesinghe, 73, won a vote in parliament to replace Rajapaksa, but he does not have a popular mandate.

His United National Party only won 10% of the 340 councils at the most recent local elections in 2018, losing 231 to the SLPP.

The IMF previously stated that Sri Lanka's $2.9 billion rescue is contingent on the agreement of Sri Lanka's bilateral creditors, which includes China, to restructure their debts.

Bloomberg News reported on Friday that the global lender is now considering approving the bailout without a formal assurance from China under a rarely used policy on lending into official arrears.

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