Sri Lanka’s General Election & its aftermath
Posted on April 10th, 2010
General elections held throughout the island for the first time devoid of LTTE presence has concluded. With 20 of the 22 district results out, the ruling UPFA has bagged 19 districts with clear margins & 60% (over 47 lakhs) of voter confidence. The main opposition for the first time securing less than 30% (21 lakhs) of the vote.
From the 20 districts the UPFA has so far secured 117 seats while the UNP has merely won 46 seats. The remaining two district results will be announced once re-election is held in several polling centers. Kandy district will have 12 seats & Trincomalee 4. The end result is likely to be the UPFA winning 125 seats.
Much of the analysis following the 2010 General Elections stems from the disparity in views between commercial Colombo backed by western influence & rural vote base. Colombo Municipal limits has just over 400,000 registered voters but it is a small portion of these opposition backing voters who feel that their views are to be accepted over that of rest of Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, it is their thoughts that get pooled with western interests ironically resulting in the main opposition being regarded as anti-SriLankan amongst Sri Lanka’s populace especially amongst the 15m Sinhalese.
This is where the major problem for the UNP lies far above the inefficiency of the main opposition leader to win an election. It would be good for the UNP to think back & wonder what J R Jayawardena & Premadasa vocalized & against the fallacies made by the present UNP. The entry of Gen. Sarath Fonseka into politics was again thought to be from the point of view of the west & Colombo elite the best option to challenge Mahinda Rajapakse. It was never about who is best suited to lead the nation it was always & only the resolve to defeat Mahinda Rajapakse. However, the nation did not place the heroics on the battle field as good enough reason to accept the candidature of Fonseka as best suited to lead the nation.
It was easy to now look back & realize that Fonseka’s candidature as Presidential candidate was to actually save the face of the UNP leader from another election loss & for JVP to survive in politics. He was merely being used by both parties. If Fonseka wonders what befell him he may like to ponder how things would have been like had he contested as an independent candidate rather than tag himself with parties & politicians that laughed at him. These were the reasons that the Government questioned from the public & reasons that the public accepted as grounds to say no to Fonseka.
The coalition the “Common Alliance” formed for the Presidential election was unable to bag the number Ranil obtained previously as a single candidate. The reason for the unprecedented voter turnout at the Presidential is easy to explain. A country that was grateful for the elimination of the LTTE was quick to realize the foreign involvement & a possible threat to the life of the President & in their numbers they came to vote silencing all critics (Western, Colombo & media)
The most pro-Fonseka sympathetic chorus came from Colombo but having gone to elections forming the DNA alongside the JVP, the Colombo district results for the DNA was a little over 110,000 & Fonseka securing just over 98,000. None of the “we are for Fonseka” sympathizers during late 2009 & towards the Presidential election in January have actually voted for the party or him. From this result it emerges that had the JVP contested alone in the Colombo district this 98,000 would not have come their way & the JVP would end up in the coffin of politics. Similarly, the 5 seats they have won arguably are those that have somersaulted from disappointed UNPers. Arjuna Ranatunga who bagged the single seat in Kalutara for the DNA is certainly no JVPer. Throwing their eggs with Fonseka has served JVP well…it is predicted that Fonseka will be forgotten even by media channels.
One of the looked forward to results was the Jaffna district voter mentality. The Presidential election results in the North & East were dismal & a major surprise to most of us. It is unfair to actually blame these voters whose lives have been made awry due to the LTTE & faith lost in all systems. Nevertheless, that the people of the North had changed their perceptions from January is noteworthy & gives much hope for the ruling UPFA Government. In Jaffna, while expectedly the TNA won with 65,219 votes the UPFA bagged 47,622 while UNP managed to secure 12,624 only. Those in Colombo, had predicted UNP to sail through with a majority in Jaffna prior to elections. The seat allocation for the North is likely to change (& be passed on to Colombo) following the census when it will emerge that the registered voter list of the 1980s is now different & we will see how small the population in the North actually is. Another surprise victory for the UPFA was the Nuwara-Eliya district where Fonseka bagged it in the Presidential election with over 50,000 margin.
Do we have a viable opposition is the next question on most of our minds. Ask most in Colombo municipal areas, one would hear the greatness of Ranil Wickremasinghe, his economic vision far exceeding that of any other but why are these thoughts never shared by even floating voters or the rural vote base & translated into winning power? Ranil cannot aspire to win any election merely functioning as hero of Colombo municipal limits yet even that loyalty is now waning. Even Wimal Weerawansa has managed to secure more votes than the opposition leader. What is also noteworthy is that the people have chosen nationalist minded representatives over those aligning to western influence.
This would spell clearly to all those attempting to steer Sri Lanka towards federalism & other such anti-unitary paths that they are purely wasting their time. The automatic solution by all UNPers is immediately to oust him & bring in another leader –but who…many feel Sajith Premadasa has a better possibility. But, with years of hard work put into Hambantota his popularity seems not to change & one wonders how best he is actually suited to lead a nation & bring about that “change”. The UNP cannot & should not wait for the ruling UPFA to make mistakes big enough to loose voter confidence.
They need to realize where they have erred & where the changes need to be made. The UPFA has successfully managed to strategize areas that wins public confidence…they have mastered this pretty well. The UNP sees but refuses to see simple areas that they could themselves expand upon & challenge the UPFA. This would be an ideal situation for Sri Lanka where the country has two viable political parties that encompasses all ethnic representations & this certainly will encourage voters to move away from aligning themselves to ethnic based political parties that would only move people away from peace & living together in one nation.
The media of Sri Lanka often takes the role of informant beyond their mandate. The alignment of media channels to political parties including state media is responsible for diluting the real thoughts of the people. If we accepted the media coverage given negatively against ruling politicians we would have accepted all ministers to have been voted out. Similarly, the media coverage sided with the main opposition into projecting a Rajapakse dynasty. Ironically, Basil Rajapakse has for the first time in the preferential voting system managed to secure over 4 lakhs of voter confidence. Ideally, it was a call most of us thought would happen given the ridiculing most of these politicians received via media channels. Nevertheless, the surprising results have actual come from UNPers voting their leaders out & Vajira Abeywardena is a prime example. In Kalutara too, UNP voters have selected totally new representations while most of the prominent UNPers rest of the country have managed to sail through dismally.
With the election now over the only means of continuing opposition would be either Fonseka’s release or the post-mortem of the election & likely to be the promise of a pruned down parliament. The 2/3rd majority aspired by the Government may not be too far in sight & with it hopefully we shall see how good at delivering promises the President is. The forthcoming days would be anxious times for all especially the re-election in polling divisions that were cancelled & with 22 district results finally out the Government would have won 21 of the 22 districts.
With elections now over for a considerable period…the people will now want action. Inefficiency is generally what the working populace would like to make known to the Government. Lethargy by public sector, age-old systems, bureaucracy are the most likely matters that the private sector would ideally like to have the Government sort out. Popularity amongst the rural masses need to be translated into better facilities for these people – better means of livelihood, assistance in agriculture, monetary aid to start of some means of livelihood, infrastructure development etc. For the entire island the education & health sectors need urgent improvement with proper & fixed policies. With these areas addressed the Government can expect to keep the confidence of the people….thuggery, political influence, underworld influence, nefarious elements & the problem of drugs are other areas that the Government need to act upon quickly. The mayhem created by VIP convoys is another area that the Government needs to stop immediately.
The most important lesson to the Government is that the people will be watching & the people now know their power & as easily as they have given they can take it away too.