Sri Lanka - Politics

Politics

Sri Lanka is the oldest democracy in South Asia. The Donoughmore Constitution, drafted by the Donoughmore Commission in 1931 enabled general elections with adult universal suffrage (universal adult franchise) in the country. It was the first time a non-caucasian country within the empires of Western Europe was given one man, one vote and the power to control domestic affairs. The first election under the universal adult franchise, held in June 1931, was for the Ceylon State Council. Sir D. B. Jayatilaka was elected as the Leader of the House. In 1944, the Soulbury Commission was appointed to draft a new constitution. During this time, struggle for Independence was fought on "constitutionalist" lines under the leadership of D. S. Senanayake. The draft constitution was enacted in the same year and Senanayake was appointed as the Prime Minister from the parliamentary election in 1947. The Soulbury constitution ushered in Dominion status and Independence to Sri Lanka in 1948.

Current politics in Sri Lanka is a contest between two rival coalitions led by the centre-leftist and progressivist United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), an offspring of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), and the comparatively right-wing and pro-capitalist United National Party (UNP). Sri Lanka is essentially a multi-party democracy with many smaller Buddhist, socialist and Tamil nationalist political parties. As of July 2011, the number of registered political parties in the country is 67. Out of these, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), established in 1935 is the oldest. UNP, established by D. S. Senanayake in 1946, was considered to be the largest single political party until recently. It is the only political group which had a representation in all parliaments since the independence. SLFP was founded by S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, who was the Cabinet minister of Local Administration, before he left the UNP in July 1951. SLFP registered its first victory in 1956, defeating the ruling UNP in 1956 Parliamentary election. Following the parliamentary election in July 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the prime minister and the world's first elected female head of state.

G. G. Ponnambalam, the Tamil nationalist counterpart of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, founded the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) in 1944. As an objection to Ponnambalam's cooperation with D. S. Senanayake, a dissident group led by S.J.V. Chelvanayakam broke away in 1949 and formed the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) aka Federal Party. It was the main Tamil political party in Sri Lanka for next 2 decades. Federal party advocated a more aggressive stance vis-à-vis the Sinhalese. With the constitutional reforms of 1972, these parties created a common front, the Tamil United Front (later Tamil United Liberation Front). Tamil National Alliance, formed in October 2001 is the current successor of these Tamil political parties which had undergone much turbulences as Tamil militants' rise to power in late 1970s. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, a Marxist-Leninist political party, founded by Rohana Wijeweera in 1965, serves as the 3rd force in the current political context. It endorses radical leftist policies, with respect to the traditionalist leftist politics of LSSP and Communist Party. Founded in 1981, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress is the largest Muslim political party in Sri Lanka.

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