September 9, 2010
Sri Lankan Constitutional Amendment Increases Presidential Power
The Sri Lankan Parliament this week voted to approve a constitutional amendment, the Eighteenth Amendment, that removes the two term limit on the presidency and authorizes the President to appoint the chairs and members of several key independent commissions, judges, and other government officials.
Article 30 of the Sri Lankan Constitution sets the presidential term at six years, but Article 31 limits a president to two terms. The Eighteenth Amendment lifts that limit and allows a president to run for an indefinite number of six-year terms.
The government's press release says that the change "will enhance the people's franchise . . . and give the people a wider choice in the election of a President."
The Amendment also empowers the president to appoint the chairs and members of an array of independent commissions, judges, and other government officials. The Amendment abolishes the Constitutional Council, a ten-member body created under the Seventeenth Amendment and comprised of members appointed by both the President and leaders in Parliament (including opposition members and a minor party member). Under the Seventeenth Amendment, the President was empowered to appoint independent commission chairs and members, judges, and certain other officials only upon the recommendation of the Constitutional Council.
The Eighteenth Amendment replaces the old Constitutional Council with a new Parliamentary Council, consisting of five members of Parliament (with only two opposition members). Under the Eighteenth Amendment the President alone is empowered to appoint independent commission chairs and members, judges, and certain other officials, but "[i]n making such appointments, the President shall seek the observations of [the] Parliamentary Council."
The Eighteenth Amendment also requires the President to attend Parliament once every three months. Under the old Article 32, the President had "the right at any time to attend . . . Parliament."
The Amendment comes in the wake of President Mahinda Rajapaksa's 18-point re-election victory in January. The Amendment will allow President Rajapaksa to run for a third term in 2016. The BBC has more on the politics behind the Amendment.
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