The resounding defeat for the two parties at the hands of the newly formed Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) has forced forced Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena, leaders of the UNP and SLFP respectively, to chart a new course in view of the new realities pertaining to popular perception.
Wickremesinghe was reported to have been advised by confidantes within the party to go it alone, especially since they believed the election debacle was a result of the party being thwarted from implementing its economic policies.
It was reported however that President Sirisena, while not objecting to an all UNP or UNP-led group forming a government, had asked Wickremesinghe to consider stepping down in favor of someone else in the party.
Senior UNPers were not keen on the idea, claiming that if anyone should resign it should be Sirisena and not Wickremesinghe.
As things stand, the vast majority of SLFPers formerly loyal to Sirisena are set to break ranks and join former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the de-facto leader of the SLPP. A few, numbering around 7, are expected to join hands with Wickremesinghe.
Since the ‘Unity Agreement’ between the two parties elapsed on December 31, 2017 and is not going to be renewed, the Cabinet of a new government formed as outlined above, would be limited to 30 or less, in terms of the 19th Amendment.
Meanwhile there is intense lobbying at the level of the local authorities since no party obtained an absolute majority of seats in a majority of the bodies. Both the UNP and SLPP are said to be wooing those members returned from the SLFP as well as independents.