Consequences of the UPFA landslide victory

By Gomin Dayasri

It was an election where the result was foreknown, an election which inspired the candidates more than the voters, leading to a low poll. A voter turnout less than at a provincial council election still brought a stable government into existence.

The low poll brought the unexpected result which is disastrous for the UNP. Sufficient number of traditional UNP voters stayed at home to register their protest against the outlook, policies and leadership which enabled the government to creep to a near two-thirds majority. Some in Colombo voted for Fonseka to register their disapproval with both the main parties. The bottomline is an endorsement of the policies of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime by the bulk of the faithful rather than the masses.

The elections were a mere formality where a two-thirds majority mattered more than determining the winner. So the competitive element visible at an election was absent.

The most striking feature was the emergence of the southern parties in the north-east in the first general elections after the war. A multiple of Tamil parties entered the fray yet the Tamil and Muslim voters showed the early signs of welcoming mainstream national parties to their provinces, jettisoning the marginal provincial parties.

The TNA that received a 90% vote at the last general elections had to watch bulk of the voters avoid the polls reflecting their dissatisfaction with the former TNA. The voter registers in the north have remained unattended due to terrorist problem and the voting took place on an outdated inflated register where many eligible youth were not included. It was more a matured aged vote from the north.

Vote was a virtual rejection of terrorism including the pleas of their financially supportive Diaspora to continue the cause sponsored by the LTTE. This vote clearly establishes if the Tamil grievances are attended to, the Tamils in Sri Lanka are not supportive of a division of the country. A strong message from the Tamil periphery to the centre in Colombo of extending the hand of friendship -- -this may well be the last chance! A centre that does not come out strongly for devolution still ran a close second in the north-east -- with the UNF vote matched or surpassed the vote of the exclusive north eastern parties.
The public servants as usual swung to the obvious winner but the message sent out by the opposition voters to the UNP and the former TNA leadership was loud and clear that 2016 will not be promising unless there are changes made not of a cosmetic nature.

The aged and arrogant R. Sambanthan from the East needs immediate replacement by a younger leader with roots in the north. The large vote for Ranil Wickremesinghe keeps him in the reckoning for the transition but makes the non-contesting Secretary Tissa Attanayake is vulnerable to the poor showing of the UNF citadel of Kandy District. Ruwan Wijewardane seems the most promising of the newcomers from the UNF and with Namal Rajapaksa may prove dynastic politics is still alive. The campaign to build young Premadasa has commenced but his showing against Namal does not show he has endeared himself to Hambantota which seems to be the emerging nursery of Sri Lanka.

The first test for the UNF would be the selection of the national list MP ---would they be the Colombo cronies again? The UPFA would have to deliver results this time with an inefficient and ineffective public service unlike last time where they had a trained disciplined dedicated security forces. Rebuilding Sri Lanka will be more daunting than defeating a terrorist organisation which lived on hype and psyche until it was exploded.

The joining and jettisoning of Fonseka had its consequences for the UNF. The vote the DNA obtained in Colombo was more a vote for Fonseka than for the JVP vote. The JVP is on its last lap which had to watch the strong showing by their rival Wimal Weerawansa doubling his vote as against his nearest contender the controversial Duminda Silva and overtaking Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo. It was more a gratitude vote for war efforts and standing by the government during troubled times.

It is a slap in the face for Wickremesinghe who always previously carried the largest share of votes in Colombo.

Meanwhile JVP lost 50% of its vote in Tissamaharama, its home base from the time of the recent provincial council election and failed to secure a seat in Hambantota where it earned its first solitary seat 20 years ago. JVP is in parliament after selling the name of Fonseka -- -a fact that Fonseka will not fail to instil in the minds of the JVP. Having Fonseka in their leadership ranks will be a permanent headache for the Marxist-oriented JVP.

Did the people approve the track record of the government during the six years in office or did they again endorse the achievements of the President? Possibly more an endorsement of the President as cabinet ministers lost or came down the list against new comers -- a disapproval of their executive action during the last 6 years. It also showed candidates nursing welfare measures please the electorates notwithstanding their other lapses as are the untried newcomers which is a sure rejection of the failed tried. The photogenic Pabha being preferred to honourable Karu Jayasuriya displays the mind of the UNP voter in the educated Gampaha region.

The fact that the incumbent President is disqualified from contesting again may lead to a struggle for succession. This will be a rerun of intra-party conflicts as for the preferential vote. This shows party discipline is at low tide. The fact that the President cannot run for re election and the war is won, might make him act more like a statesman than a politician and seek constitutional changes to reduce the powers of the executive presidency and evolve a judiciary that does not have a place for a politically oriented chief justice.

The most telling feature of recent elections are President Rajapaksa transforming a hundred thousand majority to over 18 hundred thousand and converting a minority government built on a makeshift alliance to a government with a possible 2/3 majority on the votes of the people after six years in office.

The numbers tell the story of Sri Lanka politics where the same regime will rule the country for 23 years till 2016. The success of the first six years does not necessary follow in the next six years.

(The writer is a senior Attorney-at-law)

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