The People's Alliance (PA) government faced a blow when most of the SLMC MPs left the coalition. President Chandrika Kumaratunga tried to recruit the JVP to replace it, but this angered several PA MPs, thirteen of which defected to the opposition. A no-confidence motion was prepared; to forestall this, Kumaratunga called the election.
More than 1,300 incidents of election violence were reported during the campaign. . Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake was nearly killed by a suicide bomber. Overall, 60 people were killed in election-related violence, including 14 on polling day.