In the recent local elections held on 10 February, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, made significant gains, taking almost 45% of the vote. The ruling coalition alliance made up of the United National Party (UNP) and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA/ SLFP) secured 41 and 10 votes respectively.
Increased female representation
Because of a change in the law which now requires a quarter of all seats to be filled by women, the local elections also saw more female politicians elected - more than 12 times the previous number. Bucking the trend in Colombo Municipal Council, the United National Party (UNP) won comfortably, with Rosy Senanayake becoming the first female mayor of Sri Lanka's capital city.
These were the first local elections since the centre-left SLFP and centre-right UNP parties formed a unity government in 2015, and the first time elections to all local authorities were held on the same day, under the proposed 20th amendment to the Constitution. With 15.8 million Sri Lankans eligible to elect 8,293 members to the country’s 341 local authorities (24 municipal councils, 41 urban councils and 276 divisional councils) the elections are anticipated to be the biggest in Sri Lankan history. The overall average voter turnout was around 65%.
Mixed electoral systems
Another first for these elections was the deployment of a mixed electoral system where 60% of members were chosen on a first-past-the-post basis and the remaining 40% through closed list proportional representation.
The election campaigns saw fewer reported incidents of physical violence, misuse of state resources and other violations of election law. This was attributed in part to the absence of a preferential voting system and to the establishment of the Independent Election Commission, again under 20th amendment to the Constitution.
The final results in which the parties recorded a majority:
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) - 239 local councils
United National Party (UNP) - 41 local councils
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) - 38 local councils
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) - 13 local councils
United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA/ SLFP) - 10 local councils