Empowering President at the Expense of the PM Helps Rajapaksa Rivals in the Long Run
Posted on September 19th, 2020

Dilrook Kannangara

The anti-Rajapaksa camp has a distinct advantage at presidential elections than in parliamentary elections. On the other hand, the Rajapaksa camp has a clear advantage in parliamentary elections than at presidential elections. Given this fact, it is unwise the empower the president at the expense of the PM. What should happen is the opposite. The parliament and the PM must be given more powers and the president less powers. Although more power to the president seems a good idea today because the president is Gotabaya, it will be a disaster for Rajapaksas in the long run.

JR did the same mistake in 1977 when he drafted a new Constitution with total executive power in the hands of the president. He expected his coterie will rule the country forever with his nephew Ranil taking over after him. But alas! Ranil never became the head of state. He was defeated by Chandrika who was 16 years his junior in politics and Sirisena (12 years junior in parliament). This may be the fate of Gotabaya’s nephews too.

A careful look at recent elections prove that Rajapaksas must empower the parliament and not the president. Parliamentary elections give them more power while presidential elections give their rivals more power.

Rajapaksa camp won 46% at the 2004 parliamentary election and their main rival UNP won only 38%. However, at the presidential election a year later, Rajapaksa only improved by 4% whereas the UNP improved a massive 9%. The 2010 presidential election saw UNP backed candidate win 40% against Mahinda’s 58%. However, at the following parliamentary election UNP collapsed to a dismal 29% – that is a gain of 2% for Rajapaksas and a loss of 11% for the UNP. 2015 presidential election was won by the UNP supported candidate with 51% while Rajapaksa managed 48%. At the following parliamentary election, UNP slid down to 45% (a drop of 6%) whereas Rajapaksas despite losing the previous election also reduced 6%. The same pattern continued in 2019 and 2020. UNP managed to win 42% at the presidential election against Rajapaksa’s 52%. However, UNP/SJB collapsed to a dismal 24% which is a drop of 18%! Rajapaksas on the other hand improved by 7%.

At the past election cycles, parliamentary elections favoured Rajapaksas by an average of 3% over presidential election. But presidential elections favoured Rajapaksa rivals by an average of 11% over parliamentary elections.

Look at it another way, Rajapaksas won on average 52% of parliamentary elections whenever they contested to become PM. It was the same when they contested to become President (52%). However, they main rivals managed 45% at presidential elections on average but only managed 34% on average at parliamentary election.

Astronomical population growth rate of minorities worsens this disparity as years pass.

Of course, Rajapaksas won most of these elections. However, these good times won’t last forever. They will end most likely at a presidential election than a parliamentary election. That is why it is suicidal to give more power to the president at the expense of the parliament. GR must not do the mistake of JR. Their nephews paid/will pay for it and their rivals will gain.

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