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Record number to contest April General Election

Gaveshaka discusses how Members of Parliament are elected

People in Sri Lanka elect 196 Members of Parliament (MPs) to represent them once every six years. The country is divided into 22 electoral districts from which these members are elected by the registered voters. Those over 18 years of age have the right to vote.

The General Election (as the parliamentary election is named as against the Presidential Election where a President is elected) is held under the system of Proportional Representation (PR) whereby the voter gives his vote to a political party of his choice and then to three candidates nominated by that party, if he so desires. Candidates are given serial numbers in the order in which their name appears on nomination lists which are arranged according to the Sinhala alphabet.

Before the introduction of PR, the candidate polling the highest number of votes in an electorate was declared the winner. This was known as the 'first past the post' system. Under the PR system, representatives are elected from multi-seat districts in proportion to the number of votes received.

PR assures that political parties or candidates will have the percent of legislative seats that reflects their public support. A party or candidate need not come in first to win seats.

For a party to be in the contest, it has to poll 5% of the valid votes cast which is the cut-off point. Although people elect 196 members, 225 MPs sit in Parliament.

The balance is named from the National Lists submitted by political parties to the Commissioner of Elections on Nomination Day.

It was the intention of those who drafted the Constitution that the seats would be filled in a manner
to ensure the representation of all communities in keeping with the national population ratio, as far as practicable. The 13th Parliament was dissolved on February 9, 2010 and nominations were called between February 19 – 26. The General Election will be held on Thursday, April 8.

A record number of candidates are contesting the 2010 General Election. Nominations of 7,620
candidates have been accepted.

They are from 36 political parties which are recognized by the Commissioner of Elections, and a large number of independent groups i.e. candidates who are coming forward not from a political party but as individuals.

This number exceeds the number of candidates at the 2004 General Election by nearly 2,000. At that election, 5,698 candidates contested. Of them, 3,361 were from 24 recognised parties while the balance 2,337 were independent candidates.

Four parties (each calls itself an alliance or a front) – Democratic National Alliance, Jana Setha Peramuna, United National (Party) Front and United People's Freedom Alliance – are fielding
candidates in all 22

electoral districts. There are some parties which are only having one or two candidates in the whole country. The largest number of candidates (836) is contesting the Colombo District which will elect the most number of MPs (19) while the least (144) are from the Monaragala District which elects five MPs.

The second highest number (660) is from Digamadulla where only seven MPs will be elected. Over 14 million (14,088,500) voters are eligible to cast their vote at the April General Election. This is based on the 2008 list of registered voters. The highest number of voters (1.5 million) is registered in the Colombo District followed by Gampaha (1.47 million).

The only other district having over a million voters is Kurunegala (1.18 million). These three districts will elect 52 MPs – Colombo 19, Gampaha 18 and Kurunegala 15.

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