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2nd December 2001

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Rise and fall: what the numbers say

Table 1

Rates of the vote of winners at parliamentary elections which saw a change of government.

Total vote obtained                As a % of the total valid vote      Rate of growth

1956 Election

1. SLFP's vote at 1952 Election      361250                               15.5
2. At 1956 Election (MEP)             1046277                             39.5
3. Difference in 1956 in relation to   1952                                   24.0

1970 Election

Vote obtained                    as a % of total valid vote             Rate of growth

1. SLFP's vote in 1965             1221437                                     30.2
2. At 1970 Election                   2442402                                     49.0 18.8
(United Front)

1977 Election

1. 1970 UNP's vote                    1892525                                     37.9
2. 1970 Election                         3179221                                     50.9
3. Difference in 1977 in relation to 1970                                         13.0

1994 Election

1. 1989 SLFP vote                      1785369                         31.9
2. 1994 (United Front)                 3887823                         48.9
3. Difference in 1994 in relation to 1989                               17.0

Table 2

Rates of the vote obtained by the winner who wins again at elections where no change of government is effected.

Vote obtained                         As % of total vote             Rate of decrease

1960 July Election

1. 1956 Election MEP Vote             1046277                         39.5
2. 1960 Election SLFP                     1022171                         33.6
3. Difference in 1960 in relation to  1956                                  5.9

1989 Election

Vote obtained                         As % of total valid vote             Rate of decrease

1. 1977 UNP vote                         3179221                         50.9
2. 1989 vote                                  2838005                         50.7
3. Difference in 1989 in relation to 1977                                 0.2

2000 Election

1. 1994 PA vote                         3887823                         48.94
2. 2000 vote                               3900901                         45.10
3. Difference in 2000 in relation to 1994                             3.80

By Victor Ivan
A common pattern can be observed in the number of votes a ruling party obtains is re-elected and an opposition party gets when it is elected to office.

On every occasion when a ruling party wins an election, a decline in its vote base is observed. This phenomenon also means that when an opposition party wins, there is an increase in its vote bank.

The SLFP which obtained 15.5 percent of the votes at the 1952 parliamentary election was elected to office in 1956 with 39 percent of votes _ an increase of about 24 percent.

Again in 1970, the opposition SLFP which got 30.2 percent of votes in 1965, got 49% when it was elected to office, contesting as a United Front _ an increase of 18.8 percent.

The UNP got 37.9 percent of votes and lost the 1970 elections, but it was elected to office in 1977 with a massive 50.9 percent of votes _ an increase of 13 percent. 

In 1989 the SLFP which failed to win the elections that year got 31.9 percent but when it won the election in 1994 it obtained 48.9 percent _ an increase of 17 percent.

It has been a general rule that when a ruling party loses, the victorious opposition records a substantial growth in its share of the vote.

On the other hand, when a party in power is re-elected, there is a decline rather than a growth in its vote base.

The SLFP which came to power in 1956 was re-elected to office in July 1960. But its vote base declined from 39.5 percent in 1956 to 33.6 in 1960.

The UNP which was elected to office in 1977 with 50.9 percent of votes obtained 50.7 percent at the 1989 elections. Though the declined was a mere 0.2 percent, the manner in which the elections were held makes one to assume that this figure would have been much lower if the elections had been held under normal conditions.

The PA which was elected to office in 1994 with 48.9 percent of votes obtained 3.8 percent fewer votes when it was re-elected in 2000. 

Psephological studies show the average growth rate in vote base for an opposition party that is elected to office is a staggering 18.2 percent. 

The average decline in the vote base of a party in office when it is re-elected is 3.23 percent.

This analysis suggests, there will be a decline in the PA vote base. This decline coupled with the withdrawal of the SLMC and the CWC support points to a PA defeat.

On the other hand, there should be an increase in the UNP vote base and this coupled with the support it gets from the SLMC and the CWC, we can assume the United National Front is likely to win the December 5 elections, provided there is no mass-scale vote rigging.

As the average gain in the vote base for an opposition party coming to power is 18.2 percent, we can assume the UNP will win the election. This may be the case even if the growth rate is just ten percent _ a 50 percent of votes cast. In this event, the PA's share will be around 35 percent with all other parties accounting for 15 percent.

Then the share of the seats which the parties will get is as follows:

United National Front 124-126 seats, the PA 74 - 76 seats and all other parties 25 seats.

The writer is the editor of Ravaya



Clinically Yours - By Dr. Who

Gunning for polls Somawansa style

Finally, the elusive, reclusive and exclusive Somawansa Amerasinghe has returned. But what for, we may well ask.

Whenever the Peoples' Alliance government calls for an election it has to import someone to do the dirty work: in 1999, it was Douglas Peiris and now it is Amerasinghe's turn. But the question is will Amerasinghe's appearance be counter-productive?

The PA big wigs would have expected the good sahodaraya to spare them while indulging in a heavy bout of Ranil bashing. The PA wouldn't mind the JVP gaining a few seats, because that enhances their prospects of another coalition of sorts but what does Somawansa do? He opens his mouth-for three long hours at that, Castro-style- and puts both feet firmly in.

He begins by saying that the JVP never attacked the Dalada Maligawa- and promptly invites the wrath of the Mahanayake theros. Then the die-hard revolutionary firmly declares that if all else fails the JVP would have to resort to an armed struggle- the sannaddha aragalaya that all Marxists love to talk about.

One feels sorry for the boys- Wimal, Tilvin and the others. For seven years now they have been at pains to convey to the people that they can be trusted and that they would not resort to violence again. And now comes Somawansa to put things in perspective-and frighten many a prospective voter.

Obviously soon afterwards the JVP knew the senior sahodaraya had blundered. So, they had a team talk and decided on what the Americans would call 'damage control': on Wednesday Somawansa sahodaraya reappears at a press-conference and says that the party would never, ever hold a gun. ("We won't even meet at a place where there is a gun" Wow!). Of course it was Mao Tse Tung who said that real power flows only from the barrel of a gun but, at least for the moment, Mao is old hat for the JVP.

But the painful reality about campaign issues is that denials seldom get the same publicity-or carry the same convincing tone- as the original statement. Ask Jayalath Jayawardena and he will tell you all about it. So, the damage may already be irreparable for the JVP.

Which brings us back to the original question- can a man who was in exile for 12 years suddenly reappear and claim to be the Kingmaker? Somawansa Amerasinghe's only claim for fame in the current context is being the only active member of the 'original' JVP politbureau. If the JVP believes that voters would fall for that, they are being načve. But then the JVP is also načve to think the masses will believe them when they say they will never take to the gun again.

What the masses do know is that everyone is a socialist at 20; if he is not, he has no heart. But no one is a socialist at 40; if he is, he has no head.

By the way, Somawansa Amerasinghe is 58!


Era ends with death of 'Quiet Beatle'

LOS ANGELES/LONDON, Nov 30 (Reuters) - George Harrison, the "Quiet" Beatle who was so self-effacing that he called himself only an observer inside the world's most famous pop group, has died at age 58 after weeks of criss-crossing the United States for cancer treatment, friends said on Friday. Harrison died at a private residence in Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon with his wife Olivia and 24-year-old son Dhani at his side, according to long-time family friend Gavin De Becker, an internationally known security consultant. Harrison's musical mentor, the classical Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, said in a statement that he had spent the day before Harrison died with him and that the guitarist, who found solace in Indian mystical thought, went to his death peacefully. "We spent the day the day before with him and even then he looked so peaceful, surrounded by love. .... George was a brave and beautiful soul, full of love, childlike humor and a deep spirituality ...," Shankar said. A song-writer and guitarist, Harrison married the sounds of the East with Western pop by introducing the sitar in Lennon's 1965 song "Norwegian Wood." The instrument also features on the reflective Harrison classic "Within You, Without You." He clearly lived in the shadow of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who were the group's flamboyant chief songwriters, although his lead guitar work helped give the Beatles their signature sound. He called himself the "Economy Class Beatle" and once said he felt like an observer with the group "even though I was with them. .... John and Paul were the stars...."

He also once told Newsweek magazine: "The Beatles exist apart from myself. I am not really Beatle George. Beatle George is like a suit or a shirt I once wore on occasion. Until the end of my life, people will see the shirt and mistake it for me."



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