Sri Lanka’s new parliament to hold first session

Sri Lanka will convene the inaugural session of its new parliament today following its 2020 general election, in which the

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Photo: REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Sri Lanka will convene the inaugural session of its new parliament today following its 2020 general election, in which the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party (SLPP) won a two-thirds supermajority. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is expected to deliver a five-year policy vision for the country.

President Rajapaksa and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, led the SLPP to its landslide victory by capitalising on the electorate’s fear following the 2019 Easter Bombings, as well as by positioning themselves as stalwarts of national security and decisiveness. This has manifested in the appointment of four Rajapaksa family members and their lawyer to key cabinet positions. The party’s victory underlines the power of the Sinhalese-Buddhist electorate that facilitated the SLPP’s ascent.

The Rajapaksa administration will likely have to contend with two key obstacles to its vision for Sri Lanka. The first will be the increasing disenfranchisement of minority groups created by a growing Sinhalese-Buddhist ethno-nationalism, which may culminate in violence as these groups see their legal recourse and human rights slowly eroded. Sri Lanka also faces an economic crisis accelerated by COVID-19—growth is expected to drop by 6.1% this year. With massive capital outflows, the SLPP is likely to use its newfound constitutional control to implement import bans. While protectionism may ease short-term constraints, exceeding constitutional borrowing limits or institutionalised trade barriers may prove untenable in the long-term.

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