Now it’s 260 members: 165 FPP, 66 PR, 29 National List – Independent delimitation commission to work out new polling divisions.
The 20th Constitutional Amendment presented by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) proposes a mixed electoral system that returns 231 members directly elected to Parliament. This is in addition to 29 members who will continue to enter parliament through the National List. The total number of members will, therefore, be 260.
The amendment was circulated among party leaders on Friday morning. The Sunday Times is in receipt of a copy in the English language. It proposes a mixed system by which 165 members are elected from all the polling divisions in electoral districts and 66 members are returned on the proportional representation (PR) system based on remaining votes.
The four-member SLFP committee was led by Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala de Silva. The amendment is expected to be discussed at a meeting of the United People’s Freedom Alliance members today.
The amendment envisages the President establishing a Delimitation Commission within three months of the amendment coming into force. It will consist of five persons appointed by the President on the basis that they are “not actively engaged in politics”. The Commission is to divide each electoral district into “not less than three and not more than sixteen polling divisions, ensuring that at least one member is directly elected by the registered electors of each such division, to represent such polling division”.
In the division of electoral districts into polling divisions, the Commission is to take into consideration the ratio of the ethnic composition of the population of the area concerned and the need to ensure a representation based on such ethnic ratio. It shall also consider the geographical and physical features of the electoral district or polling division; the number of registered voters and density; and the level of economic development and “prevailing social and cultural ties” within the district or division.
Significantly, the Commission is given the power to “make minor alterations to the existing boundaries or the geographical area of any administrative district or administrative districts, as the case may be” where the Commission is of the opinion that “it is equitable and just”. The amendment allows for the creation of multi-member electorates that are entitled to return more than one member. The Commission shall ensure, however, “that the number of multi-member electorates created shall be kept at a minimum level”.
The amendment also introduces a flexible time limit within which the Commission must accomplish its mandate –“by such date as shall be determined by the President”. Upon accomplishing its mandate, the Commission must submit a report to the President. The President shall then issue a proclamation with the names and boundaries of districts and divisions and so on.
“The several electoral districts together shall be entitled to return one hundred and sixty five members to represent all the polling divisions within such electoral districts and sixty six members to be returned on the proportional representation system based on remaining votes,” the amendment reads.
The Commission is left to determine the number of members to be elected from each polling division of each electoral district and the number of members to be elected on the PR system. The amendment also includes several clauses of complicated formulae.
The amendment states that the number of members to be elected on the PR system based on remaining votes in respect of each electoral district “shall be a minimum of two members and shall be so apportioned by the Delimitation Commission as to proportionately correspond to the number of members to be elected to represent the polling divisions of each electoral district”.
In respect of polling divisions entitled to return one member, the candidate with the highest number of votes will enter Parliament. In respect of those divisions entitled to return more than one candidate, the candidate who obtained the second highest number of votes, or the second and third highest number of votes, as the case may be, shall be declared elected to Parliament.
In respect of polling divisions entitled to return two or more candidates, and such candidates have obtained an equal number of votes each—and the addition of one or, where relevant, two votes would enable the selection of the candidate to be elected —the Election Commission or the Returning Officer shall cast lots to determine the candidate to whom such vote or votes should be added.
Meanwhile, recognised political parties and independent groups polling less than one-twentieth of the total valid votes shall be disqualified from having a member elected for that electoral district on the PR system based on remaining votes.