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Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Analysis: Time for co-operation?
Sri Lankan ballot box
The voters may have chosen a hung parliament
By Alastair Lawson in Colombo

The latest results from the Sri Lankan elections suggest that the country is heading for a hung parliament.


A hung parliament could result in a . . . row over the division of power

Constitutional expert Rohan Edrisinha
It also means that President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the opposition leader, Ranil Wickremasinghe, may have to work together - even though their personal relationship in recent months has often been characterised by personal animosity.

"On one hand it might be that cohabitation is no bad thing," says constitutional expert Rohan Edrisinha.

"It would mean that the two parties would be forced to bury the hatchet and sort out their differences," he says.

"In the long run, I believe that it must benefit the people of Sri Lanka if there is a consensus between the two, especially in relation to the 17-year old civil war.

"But on the other hand a hung parliament could result in a constitutional showdown in which President Kumaratunga and Mr Wickremasinghe row over the division of power."

High stakes

There's a lot at stake for both leaders.

The president would like the People's Alliance to get a convincing majority in parliament so that she can carry on with her plans to reform the country's constitution to include a devolution package.


Ranil Wickremasinghe: Leadership could be in question
She hopes that allowing Tamil-majority areas in the north and east to have more autonomy might bring a peaceful end to the war, although in the meantime she has said that there will be holds barred in the military campaign against them.

For Mr Wickremasinghe, a poor performance in the polls would put his leadership of the UNP into question.

He lost to President Kumaratunga in presidential elections in December and some in his party are already questioning his leadership qualities.

Critics say that while he lacks the charisma of President Kumaratunga, he out-performs her in his attention to policy details.

"She has all the flair, but sometimes is vague over the semantics, while he is not particularly colourful but is every inch the technocrat," one analyst said.

"It's a shame they dislike each other so much because in a way they would ideally complement each other."

Horsetrading

Both the PA and the UNP will now embark on a frantic round of horsetrading in an effort to win the support of smaller parties in their efforts to gain a majority.

Sri Lankan president
President Kumaratunga: Advantage of power
Many may well be attracted to the governing coalition, because President Kumaratunga occupies a powerful position.

She can appoint and dismiss ministers and retains the finance and defence portfolios.

Under the country's emergency legislation she can even ignore parliament.

"Mr Wickremasinghe's only card is that parliament in the long run controls the purse strings," one diplomat said, "but someone of the president's intelligence is likely to give them a difficult time."

It's still not clear what all this means for the Sri Lankan war.

President Kumaratunga's tactics of fighting all out war while seeking a constitutional settlement to the conflict have been challenged by Mr Wickremasinghe.

He has criticised her for not even entertaining the idea of talking to the Tamil Tigers.

Without their support or consent, he argues, any political settlement in Sri Lanka will be impossible to implement.

He says that his party has not ruled out a dialogue with the rebels, even though numerous UNP leaders have been assassinated by the Tamil Tigers over the last 17 years.

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See also:

11 Oct 00 | South Asia
Tight race in Sri Lanka
10 Oct 00 | South Asia
Violence mars Sri Lanka poll
06 Oct 00 | South Asia
Sri Lankan leader's war pledge
09 Oct 00 | South Asia
Q&A: Sri Lanka's election
06 Oct 00 | South Asia
Sri Lanka's parties offer little choice
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