Sri Lanka will hold its first nationwide local elections since the crushing of Tamil Tiger rebels, a minister said, with the mid-March vote seen as a key test for the ruling party.
Health minister Maithripala Sirisena said all local government bodies would be dissolved by mid-January, about two weeks before they complete their terms, and fresh elections would be called by mid-March.
"The local bodies will be dissolved by the middle of this month and we will have earlier elections," said Sirisena, who is also the general secretary of the ruling party.
More than 300 municipal, urban and village councils will face elections for the first time since government forces crushed Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 and declared an end to 37 years of ethnic bloodshed.
President Mahinda Rajapakse has tightened his grip on power by winning a second term in 2010 and following it up with a landslide win at April parliamentary polls.
Political sources said the local election would be a key test of the government's popularity as the country emerges from debilitating ethnic strife, and a challenge to the highly fractured opposition.