The Sri Lanka People's Front (SLPP) gained a parliamentary supermajority earlier this month in what was the first major election held in South Asia since the coronavirus pandemic began. The results solidified the political power of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had dissolved the previous parliament shortly after he was elected last year. USIP’s Jumaina Siddiqui, Tamanna Salikuddin and Vikram Singh look at whether the polls were free and fair, what the landslide victory means for Sri Lanka as the country continues its recovery from civil war, and how the election impacts South Asia.
In South Asia, home to some of the world’s most densely populated nations, the COVID-19 pandemic has tightened its grip—causing infections to soar, battering economies, and plunging many into poverty. Governments have mostly struggled to cope.
When the government of Sri Lanka struggled to repay loans used to build the Hambantota port, it agreed to lease the port back to China for 99 years. Some commentators have suggested that Sri Lanka, as well as other South Asian nations that have funded major infrastructure projects through China’s Belt and Road Initiative, are victims of “China’s debt-trap diplomacy.” This report finds that the reality is...