Key to Next Elections
Posted on February 7th, 2014

Gomin Dayasri Courtesy The Daily Mirror

Colombo District results at the forthcoming Provincial Council elections hold the key to the outcome of the next General or Presidential election scheduled for 2014/2015. Colombo District and Colombo Municipal Council area are two worlds.

UNP has to win the Colombo district or come within striking distance of winning to keep their hopes alive at a future General or Presidential election.Colombo District alone can resurrect the UNP or spell its doom.

Colombo District carries characteristics that make it an ideal turf prepared by a curator for the UNP to score. It includes the populous Colombo Municipal Council that turned green even where the candidates were a set of unknown nondescripts appearing on an independent label substituting for the UNP when its list was rejected.
At the parliamentary elections in 2010 the UNP won all 5 seats with ease in the Colombo Municipality area. [Colombo North (60%-31%), Colombo Central (63%-27%), Borella (48%-39%) Colombo East (49%-37%) and Colombo West  (64%-25%)]. The significance of this result is that it followed the Presidential elections where Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected overwhelmingly but yet the common candidate Sarath Fonseka won all 5 Colombo seats by still larger majorities than at the Parliamentary elections. Residents in the Colombo Municipality live on a different planet away from the rest of Sri Lanka thriving on the UNP culture and with its mindset.

Colombo District can be classified into three zones ”the aforesaid municipal evergreen inner zone. The intermediate zone of the semi urban electoral districts of Kotte, Kollonnawa, Dehiwella, Ratmalana and Moratuwa that turns green whenever a UNP administration is to be elected to office. The rest is the peripheral belt of Colombo, which has a staunch Sinhala Buddhist vote. (Saffron zone- where in 2005 the JHU in some seats pushed UNP to third place). Yet these electorates of Maharagama, Homagama, Kaduwela, Kesbewa and Avissawella were won by the UNP in the time of J.R.Jayewardane,R.Premadasa and at the 2000 general elections when UNP was returned under Ranil Wickremasinghe as the prime minister. After losing the Colombo District, UNP has never formed a government- that makes it a pivotal district. Therefore to pick the momentum UNP has to win the Colombo District in a ‘do or die’ battle at the provincial council elections to show its emergence.

 If Government gains substantial majorities in the outer peripheral electorates in the Colombo District that has a rural outlook, it will configure a trend that will show typical rural Sri Lanka is firmly in the blue corner.  That will make the national elections a mere formality and may make a snap election a distinct possibility. Colombo means more for the UNP and its leader than for the Government! A win will provide a mighty boost to a dented party image while a loss can lead to more defections from the UNP.

In recent elections UNP has not been able to make an impact outside metropolitan Colombo – winning only one other electorate in Dehiwela in 2010 parliamentary elections ”while losing all the other border electorates of Colombo. Nevertheless in the 2005 Presidential Elections where Ranil Wickremasinghe was the candidate, the UNP won the Colombo District (51% – 49%) with overwhelming majorities in the 5 metropolitan Colombo seats and secured wins in the bordering Kotte, Kollonnawa and Dehiwela electorates. In outer periphery of the Colombo District, Mahinda Rajapaksa won the electorates of Kesbewa, Kaduwela, Maharagama, Homagama, Avissawella and Moratuwa handsomely and lost Ratmalana narrowly.

Colombo District -excluding the outer periphery in the Sinhala Buddhist belt- has the traditional base of the UNP vote with an appreciable minority vote, high percentage of commercial and professional interests, middle class voters on whom Colombo opinion makers impact on current issues, urban population that is affected by the rising cost of living and where living standards are higher than in any other part of Sri Lanka and where economic hardships are much felt.

In the Colombo District, government has been scoring heavily in recent elections in the electorates that are traditionally Sinhala Buddhists. It is this vote that often offsets the large majorities that are secured by the UNP in the metropolitan Colombo and enables the government to win the Colombo District. From these electorates, a semi-urban population travels frequently for employment to Colombo and gratefully remembers the victory at war. Many outstation voters are lodged in these outer Colombo electorates for easy travel to the city and often communicate the political message from the village to the town and vice versa. Public opinion in outer Colombo is double barreled and twice valued as it is between town and country, with many eligible to vote,  registered in the outstations.

Ironically since the war victory there is a common plan reached in the aforesaid Buddhist belt and the Catholic/Christian belt from Ja-ela to Chilaw in voting with the Government. This is further reflected in the Bishops Conference distancing themselves from the homilies of their northern brethren. Nevertheless, predominantly Catholic/Christian Colombo North electorate has never moved away from the UNP and delivers a huge majority at every election. It shows a difference in outlook of the urban and rural Christian population.

It is the electorates on either side of the high and low level roads from Maharagama to Avissawella that set trends for the rest of southern Sri Lanka at elections. These five electorates are the pacemakers in Sri Lankan politics for whoever wins them comprehensively forms the government for it has a rural and urban complexion, educated and literate voters, symbolises the newly emerging middle income society and are the recipients of the opinion makers mindsets and yet with sufficient intellect to form an opinion of their own.

Mahinda Rajapaksa won these electorates Kaduwela; (62%-36%) Avissawella (64%-43%) Homagama (66%-32%), Maharagama (62%-36%), Kesbewa (65%-34%) comfortably against another pro-war candidate Sarath Fonseka.  These electorates could be sensitive to the UNP as there are still activists of Sarath Fonseka as candidates. It is possible that Sarath Fonseka may make inroads more into the UNP nationalistic vote than to the disenchanted UPFA vote.

An extraneous factor to reckon is the substantial vote flow from the North. Total number of the Northern vote according to the latest statistics stand at over 700,000 votes though minimal by the standards of the southern vote; much of it is likely to be diverted by the TNA (which extracted 85% of the votes cast in the North) to the UNP. In addition to this bonus the UNP may lead though by a lesser number in the Eastern Province, which is high on the minority vote.

In 2005 when Mahinda Rajapaksa won the Presidential Election by a narrow majority it was primarily due to the prohibition imposed on voting by the LTTE, thereby preventing Ranil Wickremasinghe from building substantial majorities in the North and East. A fear was that Wickremasinghe may attract international support to crush the LTTE and Mahinda Rajapaksa was miscalculated to be the lesser evil; eventually gave leadership to the elimination of the LTTE, on which triumph he is a beneficiary of a large vote bank. Now North is free to exercise the franchise.

This makes it imperative that Rajapaksa builds formidable majorities in the South to offset the lead the UNP is likely to garner from the North and East. If the South fails to deliver a lead to the UPFA it means the Sinhala Buddhist vote is not a monolithic vote but split between the two major parties. The government requires the bulk Sinhala Buddhist vote to be comfortable and safely home. This is bedrock of the SLFP. It is possible that a third candidate might emerge to split the all-important Sinhala Buddhist vote.

For the UNP the most favorable district is Colombo in building up a majority in view of the kept electorates in the city of Colombo. But if it fails to make a dent in the outer peripheral electorates then it is unlikely to make an impact in the rural electorates of Sri Lanka. If Rajapaksa’s majorities are reduced in the strongly Sinhala Buddhist electorates in the Colombo District then it will become infectious to spill over to other less sophisticated electorates in the rural districts. Often Colombo’s outer peripheral migrant workers transmit the message to the rural folk prolific ally by hand phones.

These equations will have to be re-worked if there is an economic upheaval – nothing frightens Colombo more.

6 Responses to “Key to Next Elections”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    UNP and ANY anti-SL fellow would win Colombo city because it has MORE Tamils than Sinhalese.

    That is the reason.

    Gomin is right. At the next presidential election Tamils in the north and east will give ANY ANTI-MR candidate at least a 400,000 LEAD.

    IF MR fails to get more than a 400,000 lead from other areas, he is DOOMED.

  2. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    It is imperative that the Rajapakse government stays in power. Democracy maybe one way but one must keep in mind under Democracy the minority Tamils did and continue to demand more power, more autonomy and even Eelam. There is a western song called “There is a season for all things”. the season for open unfettered Democracy has come and gone.

    Now it is the season for a strong Buddhist Theocracy where the Buddhist Sanga receive extraordinary powers, where the man who defeated the LITE and ushered in peace and development stay in power for he above past Presidents is willing to stand against the Tamil Diaspora, and the UN. He has developed a strategic alliance with a security Council member China and kept internal dissent to a minimum.

    The Rajapakse legacy must remain in place for there is no other contender who has the clout of President Rajapakse. If Sri Lanka is to remain a single nation Democracy will not be the answer.

  3. Ratanapala Says:

    Democracy and Human Rights are Pal Boru! Christian UNP should never be allowed to rule Sri Lanka. President should not allow those close to him – the bad ones, to destroy his Presidency and his legacy. Otherwise what happened to Marcos, Suharto, Mubarak and Gadaffi can happen to him too.

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    Our bloody govt. is more UNGRATEFUL than Tamils.

    In 2011 China battled ON OUR BEHALF to save us. What did the GOSL do? Went to bed with disgusting ENDIA and sidelined China!

    Now we are BEGGING China again.

    At least this time, get China in and push Endia OUT.

    “External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris will visit China from February10 to 13 as a special envoy of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to garner the much needed Chinese support.

    During the three-day visit on the invitation of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yee, the minister will meet Chinese Deputy President Li Yuanchao, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Li Baodong the Deputy Foreign Minister in charge of UN and HR Affairs.

    External Affairs Ministry sources said the US sponsored resolution that is likely to be presented at the March UNHRC sessions will be a main feature at the discussions and Sri Lanka would expect Chinese support to face the resolution.

    This year China became a member of the UNHRC. At the previous sessions when the US sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka was submitted, China had actively campaigned among member states with Chinese influence to defeat the motion.

    Last month during an email interview with Daily Mirror Chinese Ambassador Wu Jianghao said China will ‘unswervingly’ speak for Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions.

    The Ambassador said China recognised the progress achieved by the Sri Lankan Government and its people in economic and social development after the ‘internal conflict’ ended.

    Reiterating that China and Sri Lanka are true friends, he said a friend in need is a friend indeed. “We believe that Sri Lanka should be given more time and space to solve its problems by itself. In the days to come, we will continue to unswervingly speak for Sri Lanka at the UNHRC to uphold justice,” he said.”


  5. Lorenzo Says:

    GLP is visiting China at a VERY CRUCIAL time.

    China held its FIRST EVER military drills in the Endian Ocean 2 days ago.

    Endia-Indonesia and Australia held a separate drill just a day ago.

    Things are hotting up between the 2 countries.

    SL has to GET RID of Endia now. We cannot play this DOUBLE GAME forever. I hope China DEMANDS SL to get rid of TOO MANY Endian interference in the country for it to support SL at UNHRC. Otherwise our fools will never do it.

  6. Nanda Says:

    “It is imperative that the Rajapakse government stays in power.”

    If Gonseka or CBK become president it is a disaster.

    With most of the funds going to Tamils MR is loosing touch with common man. No busses after 8 pm to go to Kesbewa, how to win Kesbewa area votes. Dehiwala, galkissa , Wellawatte, Colombo city are all tamil areas now. How to win there ?

    This is why more attention need for common man not to Tamil terrorists.

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