The biggest electorate in Sri Lanka is actually unelected. The National List seats 29 MPs, 10 more than the Colombo District. If you break it down by Provinces, the National List would be the second biggest Province in Sri Lanka, less than the Western Province (47 seats) but more than the Southern (25 each).
That’s why President (and party Chairman) Sirisena is sacking party officials on election eve. He needs control of the National List. If he has that, then he can resolve the split caused by Mahinda still clamoring for power. Or at least begin that process on stronger footing.
How The National List Works
National List MPs are chosen by the party, which is why President Sirisena (as party Chairman) has sacked the General Secretaries of the UPFA and SLFP. Because those are the guys who would select MPs from the National List. If Sirisena controls the party, he controls the National List.
Now, the nominees to the National List have already been announced. They are:
The nominees are set, but who actually becomes an MP is determined by the party after the election (I think they have a week). So deciding who sits is actually very important, especially in an election like this, where neither side is likely to get an outright majority out of the 196 seats that are voted on.
What happens is that the parties get a proportional slice of the National List seats. If the SLFP wins 70 seats at the ballot, they get 10 seats on the National List. Not insubstantial at all. If Maithripala can control who is seated, it’s like winning an extra Colombo district away from Mahinda loyalists. I think he would also choose better candidates than Mahinda, who used the National List to bring in criminals and thugs like Mervyn Silva.
It’s a canny and smart move by Sirisena to take control of the party right now, though it will definitely go to court. I’m not familiar with the UPFA Constitution, but I think Maithripala may be within his rights as Chairman. If it holds up, this procedural play may have as much effect on the 15th Parliament as 1 million votes.