Parliamentary Chamber: Parliament


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Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  16 August 1994

Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all the seats in Parliament following the premature dissolution of this body on 24 June 1994. General elections had previously been held in February 1989.

Background and outcome of elections:

  On 24 June 1994, President of the Republic D.B. Wijetunga dissolved Parliament and announced that general elections would take place in August – i.e., six months early, since they were due by February 1995.

Following the previous (February 1989) elections, President Ranasinghe Premadas of the ruling (since 1977) United National Party (UNP) was assassinated in May 1993 and succeeded by Mr. Wijetunga. In March 1994, the UNP was soundly defeated in provincial elections by the opposition People’s Alliance, a left-wing coalition of nine parties led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

The month-long campaign was violent, marked by 24 killings. Two issues stood out in the debate: the economy and the ongoing struggle between the country’s ethnic Sinhalese and Tamil communities, the latter calling for autonomy of the northern region where they are most populous. The centrist UNP underlined its liberalisation of the economy through free-market reforms which resulted in annual growth in this connection.

Nevertheless, these initiatives failed to check unemployment and inflation. SLFP leader Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga countered by pledging to uphold the country’s market economy, but with a “human face” (especially by increasing welfare benefits). She furthermore promised to embark on unconditional talks with all Tamil parties, thus going further than the incumbent President, who characterised the insurgency as “only a terrorist problem”. The opposition, finally, accused the UNP administration of corruption and abuse of power while in office; it promised to restructure the government by trimming the broad powers of the presidency to give more control to the Prime Minister and Parliament. Altogether 1440 candidates from a multitude of parties vied for the 196 district seats.

The violent campaign led to tight security measures on polling day, which was comparatively peaceful. The voting process was monitored by international observers, who deemed it generally free and fair except in the Jaffna and Wanni districts, marked by low turnouts due to Tamil terrorism scare; the participation rate in Jaffna was less than 3%.

Final results gave the People’s Alliance 105 parliamentary seats to 94 for the UNP. Although falling short of an absolute majority, the former arrived at the required total (113) by obtaining the support of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (seven seats) and an independent member, as well as pledges from two other groups on an issue-by-issue basis.

On 19 August, Mrs. Bandaranaike Umaratunga – the daughter of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the former long-time Prime Minister and leader of the People’s Alliance – was sworn in as Prime Minister along with the new Cabinet which included her mother. On 9 November, Mrs. Bandaranaike Kumaratunga won the election for President of the Republic and Mrs. S. Bandaranaike took her place as Prime Minister five days later.

Round no 1 (16 August 1994): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 10,945,065
Voters 8,344,095 (76.23%)
Blank or invalid ballot papers 400,389
Valid votes 7,943,706

Round no 1: Distribution of votes  
Political Group Candidates Votes %
People’s Alliance 249 3,887,823 48.94
United National Party (UNP) 249 3,498,370 44.04
Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) 13 10,744 .01
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) 46 143,307 1.80
Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) 33 132,461 1.60
Democratic People’s Liberation Front (DPLF) 9 11,567 .01
Sri Lanka Progressive Front (SLPF) 232 90,078 1.13
Others (including independent groups) 610 169,356 2.13

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total District “National”
People’s Alliance 105 91 14
United National Party (UNP) 94 81 13
Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) 9 9 0
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) 7 6 1
Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) 5 4 1
Democratic People’s Liberation Front (DPLF) 3 3 0
Sri Lanka Progressive Front (SLPF) 1 1 0
Others (including independent groups) 1 1 0

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 213
Women: 12

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Copyright 1994 Inter-Parliamentary Union