By Online Desk

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will hold the Local Government (LG) polls on March 9, the country’s election commission announced on Saturday, despite the government’s stand that any decision to hold the polls amidst poor financial position could worsen the ongoing economic crisis.  

The local election was earlier postponed by six months as the country was gripped by unprecedented economic turmoil which triggered a political crisis and led to the ouster of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The officials of the election commission announced that the local polls for the 340 councils in the island nation will take place on March 9.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) face rising opposition from workers, youth and rural toilers over the rising cost of living and attacks on their social and democratic rights. Fearful that this popular anger will express itself in a humiliating electoral defeat, Wickremesinghe and his government have desperately attempted to call off the polls. Although the local government elections are likely to go ahead as scheduled, last-minute government moves to block them cannot be ruled out, according to a report on World Socialist Website.

The opposition parties have been pressing for the local election, saying it will give people a chance to show displeasure over the government’s handling of the economic crisis.

The election process will reportedly cost Rs 10 billion which would put additional pressure on the already lean state finances.

SLPP controls a majority of councils after having won the last election held in 2018. However, the party is in disarray since July when its leader and former President Rajapaksa was ousted in a popular uprising.

It has suffered defections with members forming other electoral alliances.

After Rajapaksa’s ouster, Sri Lanka’s Parliament elected then-Acting President and six-time former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new head of the State.

He had the backing of the SLPP, the largest bloc in the 225-member parliament.

The main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) is confident that they could win a majority of councils given the ruling party’s seeming unpopularity.

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court against the conduct of the election in the backdrop of the economic crisis.

The Sri Lankan police said on Friday they have initiated an investigation into threats received by two members of the election commission, warning them to resign.

Sri Lanka is going through its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948, triggered by a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves.

(With inputs from PTI)

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