President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) and the Rajapaksas’ Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Front) have decided to contest polls together, in a historic alliance of the former arch-rivals, now cohabiting government following extraordinary political changes last year. 

UNP General Secretary Palitha Range Bandara told reporters that following discussions, the two parties had decided to contest under the UNP’s elephant symbol in some districts, the SLPP’s lotus bud symbol in others, and a possible common symbol in the rest. The arrangement, should the scheduled Local Government elections be held early this year, would mark the coming together of the island’s two main camps in Sinhala polity — the SLPP was carved out of the Bandaranaike’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) — that have competed for power for over seven decades. 

However, opinion on the conduct of the Local Government polls, held last in 2018, is divided in Sri Lanka. Some argue that the crisis-hit island cannot afford an election while struggling to recover. Others maintain that the current government, helmed by Wickremesinghe and backed by the Rajapaksas’ party, has no mandate to rule the country, after a public uprising dislodged the Rajapaksa clan. They see an election as a test of public opinion on the current government and a vital democratic exercise. 

Sri Lanka’s Election Commission said it would accept nominations for the Local Government elections from January 18 to 21. Citizens will get to elect members to the municipal councils, urban councils and pradeshiya sabhas at the rural level in the island-wide polls. An estimated LKR 10 billion (roughly ₹220 crore) is required for holding the elections to the local authorities, according to the poll body.   

Different parties have moved the Supreme Court respectively seeking the suspension of polls, or its conduct. The cases are being heard.