SLFP’s dilemma
Posted on November 3rd, 2017

Editorial Courtesy The Island


The Joint Opposition (JO) has sought to bargain from a position of strength with the SLFP, which has invited it to contest the next Local Government (LG) polls together. It has put forth some pre-conditions, the main being that the SLFP pull out of the ruling yahapalana coalition.

President Maithripala Sirisena is now in a dilemma. He succeeded in outwitting his bête noire Rajapaksa, in style, at the 2015 general election. He used Rajapaksa, who wanted to be the Prime Minister, to lead the polls campaign and queered the pitch of the latter on the eve of the election; thereafter he sacked the general secretaries of the SLFP and the UPFA, appointed his men to those two posts and formed a joint administration with the UNP. He manipulated the composition of Parliament to deny Rajapaksa the Opposition Leader’s post, which went to TNA Leader R. Sampanthan. The SLFP is apparently trying to play the same trick again, but it is doubtful whether it will succeed in its endeavour this time around because once bitten Rajapaksa is twice shy.

The SLFP is sure to face an ignominious defeat at the upcoming LG polls if it fails to secure the backing of the JO. President Sirisena needs an electoral debacle like a hole in the head in that he will have to lead the SLFP’s polls campaign, thereby, pitting himself against the UNP led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The mini polls will be a battle for supremacy between the President and the Prime Minister to all intents and purposes. If the President fails to steer his party to success his position will be further undermined in the yahapalana government. The UNP ministers are already short-changing their SLFP counterparts and asking the latter, in public, to leave the government.

The President will have to show his hand before the LG polls; he will have to tell the SLFP whether he is planning another political marriage with the UNP. The same goes for the Prime Minister, who will have to let his party know what he really intends to do after the LG polls. Many UNPers have not taken kindly to their party sharing power with the SLFP. The President and the Prime Minister won’t be able to keep their parties in the dark and extend their cohabitation to the grassroots level after the LG polls because they will have to face the electorate again at the PC elections and, most of all, the presidential election due in 2019.

It is highly unlikely that the President will agree to pull out of the yahapalana coalition to appease the JO. For, he will render himself politically much more vulnerable in such an eventuality. Worse, leaving the government will place him at the mercy of the JO led by the Rajapaksas; he would be in the same predicament as a fly in a spider’s parlour if he met the JO’s demand! He, therefore, would just as soon stay in the yahapalana coalition and hope for the best.

Let it be repeated that SLFP cannot avoid a crushing defeat at a future election unless it secures the backing of its dissidents. The UNP will be at an advantage if the SLFP and the JO contest elections separately. But, the JO’s battle plan is not so much winning an election but weakening the President and wresting control of the SLFP in time for the next presidential and parliamentary elections. It will be happy if it can beat the SLFP at the mini polls. The President will have a hard time, trying to prevent mass defections from his camp in such a situation.

President Sirisena finds himself between a rock and a hard place. He cannot leave the government or be at the mercy of the JO and at the same time his chances of enabling the SLFP to win an election without smoking the peace pipe with the party dissidents are remote. Whether he will be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat remains to be seen.

5 Responses to “SLFP’s dilemma”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Whatever it is the JO must not trust Sirisena again. It should contest the election separately.

    Thereafter pressure will mount on Sirisena to have a deal with the JO. SLFP MPs will be in panic as they are certain they have no future. Mahinda should not come to any deal but do a hostile takeover of the SLFP by getting them to change the SLFP constitution and hold internal elections to choose its leader.

    Sirima was wise enough to see this happening to the SLFP in the 1990s if she didn’t allow Chandrika takeover the party (in reality) while she kept a nominal position. Sirisena is not so wise so he needs to be removed from party leadership the hard way.

  2. Senerath Says:

    @Dilrook
    Can our country be saved by suggested political warfare ? I suppose it depends on the weapons used. If this time they don’t grab the Sinhala cause , a win is unlikely and a victory could be worse for Sir Lanka as they again come back pleasing minoarities.

  3. Dilrook Says:

    @Senerath

    I’m aware of it and you are correct.

    I can see the SLPP and GR campaigns (plural as they are electoral rivals) subtly changing their pro-Sinhala stand towards the multi-stand once again despite the fact that no more minorities than 2015 will vote for them.

    However, Mahinda’s recent speech in parliament is clearly a step in the right direction and his planned meeting in Anuradhapura on November 12. This is closely followed by all political commentators as it is expected to be the turning point.

    Sirisena although down is not out. He has to be expelled from SLFP leadership. Otherwise he will contest against Mahinda’s camp just to defeat it and handover the victory to UNP.

  4. Cerberus Says:

    SLFP has announced that they are going to the polls on their own. This will split the Sinhala vote and the UNP will win. From the day My3 was elected, he has been working on behalf of the UNP and not his own party, the SLFP. He follows the orders from Ranil the traitor who gets his orders from IDU and the West. When the first Bond scam was done, My3 took no action since Ranil ordered him not to do so and the second scam on a bigger scale was done. Even now My3 is not taking any action to jail the parties involved in the Bond scam. He may have got some rewards for the Bond scam getaway and he must have been assured safety by Ranil, so he may make sure Ranil wins “for India/west combo” which means success for Tamil Separatism too.

    Remember what My3 said when he appointed Ranil as Executive PM. All I can say is “Aiyo Sirisena” what have you to done to our country to save your miserable skin? It is depressing to say that if the country and the SLFP rank and file think they can trust this person fully, they are sadly mistaken as he is in survival mode now! So now no one trusts him. In his efforts to save Lanka, he has let down Lanka! He may still have some tricks up his sleeve to stumble MR like arresting Namal, or Yoshitha just before the election or pulling out something against MR just before the election.

    As you all rightly say, the SLFP cannot win with MY3 and the “rogue queen” in charge of the party. Ranil is the linchpin holding the whole unholy mess together. When or if he is removed all the dominoes will fall.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    Looks like Pres MS has been playing Chess on several chessboards !
    Sri Lanka needs ALL their PATRIOTIC leaders.
    I would categorise MS as a “mostly Patriotic” person, forced into a most unpleasant game of politics in vulnerable Lanka.

    Sri Lanka is a hard place to govern.
    We need ALL our PATRIOTIC/NATIONALIST leaders, plus ALL the Patriotic/Nationalistic citizens to overcome the stumbling blocs placed in front of us, from the past, the present and the future.

    Long live a Unitary & United Lanka !

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