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Sri Lanka Table of Contents

Sri Lanka

Electoral Performance

In general elections between 1952 and 1977, the two major parties have alternately secured majorities: the SLFP in 1956, July 1960 (elections were held in both March and July 1960), and 1970; and the UNP in 1952, March 1960, 1965, and 1977. To govern effectively, each party has formed coalitions with smaller groups. The two major parties, however, have together gained a progressively larger percentage of the popular vote at the expense of the smaller groups: from 59.5 percent of the total vote in 1952 to 80.6 percent in 1977 (see table 12, Appendix A). In the July 1977 general election, the UNP, benefiting from widespread public disaffection with the leftist policies of the SLFP, won the largest majority in history: 50.9 percent of the popular vote and 140 out of 168 seats contested. The SLFP's parliamentary representation dropped dramatically from 91 to 8 seats, though it garnered 29.7 percent of the vote. With its eighteen seats, the TULF became the principal opposition party. Two seats were won by the Ceylon Workers' Congress and an independent. The two Marxist parties, the LSSP and the CPSL, failed to win representation. Parliamentary elections have typically included a large number of independent candidates, but the number elected has steadily declined since 1947. In July 1977, there were 295 independents running without party affiliation, but only 1 secured a parliamentary seat.

By-elections for eighteen parliamentary seats that became vacant after the resignation of UNP members were held in May 1983 in tandem with local government elections. These were conducted under the system of proportional representation outlined in the Constitution. The UNP won fourteen of the contests, the SLFP won three, and the People's United Front won one. Further byelections were held during the 1984-86 period.

Sri Lanka has had only one presidential election since promulgation of the 1978 Constitution. This occurred on October 20, 1982. Six candidates participated. The deeply divided SLFP, deprived of its most popular leader, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, put up Hector Kobbekaduwa, an obscure candidate who had served as minister of agriculture in a SLFP government. Kobbekaduwa won 39.1 percent of the vote, compared to the incumbent Jayewardene's 52.9 percent. The four other candidates, who together won only 8.1 percent of the vote, represented the JVP, LSSP, NSSP, and the Tamil Congress.

Data as of October 1988