a vantage point: numbers guts and end-games
This is as good a town as any to end a series of articles in this
column on the 2005 Presidential poll. For one, it's a place that
seems to be split almost obscenely down the middle. As many men
and women say they are for Wickremesinghe, as they are for Rajapakse.
That's like everyman's electorate, anywhere. Good to retain journalistic
objectivity and whatnot.
I've been asking the same question from Galle down to Tangalle and
then to Hambanthota. "Who is gong to win, and are you going
to vote for the winner?"
A rice-mill owner proceeding towards his daily swig of arrack in
a urban pub in Matara says this will be like "getting the Dalada
Maligawa -- the temple of the tooth -- down to the south of the
For a moment I'm flummoxed. I ask him what the Buddha's tooth relic
has got to do with a vulgar Presidential election. He grins and
says "if Rajapakse wins, it will be the first time we southerners
will be able to say our neighbour is the President.''
That kind of almost incestuous (oops, nepotism is the right word
isn't it?) support for Rajapakse is quite the thing here. But, you'd
be surprised how many of them in this southern cauldron also don't
give a damn for such regional vanities.
A waiter in Tangalle is offended when I assume that his area is
for Rajapakse, because it is quite cheek by jowl with Weeraketiya
the PM's pocket burrow. He walks out when I say "everybody
here is for Rajapakse, right?'' Later, I overhear him complaining
to a fellow waiter grumpily that he couldn't possibly tell me the
truth when I sounded so cocksure myself.
The truth I learn from quite a bit of the others as well, is that
almost 50 per cent of folks in this the Prime Minister's pocket
burrow are for the other bloke. Most of that discontent is tsunami
related. Others feel that Sajith Premadasa has worked while the
Prime Minister has been busy minding the country.
If everybody in the south, the deep-south and the rest of the country
have made up their minds about which of these men they will vote
for, isn't it a miracle of modern-day ignorance that we still have
no idea whatsoever as to which candidate will take those oaths and
attempt to govern us from Thursday onwards?
Damned right we can all wait for Thursday and stay glued to our
seats, but then what are journalists and newspapers for?? In the
absence of any proper polling that can be called respectable even
by a bookmaker, the only alchemy that we have to go by is a combination
of number crunching, gut instinct and vox populi.
So here goes:
Here are the relevant vital statistics of the last significant poll
held in this country, the general election of 2004 April:
UPFA 45.6 per cent of the vote./ UNF (UNP + CWC) 37.8 percent/ Illankai
Tamil Arasu Katchi 6.8 percent / National heritage Party JHU 6.0
percent /Up-Country People's Front 5 percent /EPDP: 0.3 percent
If UNP candidate Wickremesinghe gets half of the North East (Tamil
Arasu Katchi/TNA) vote from what the UP got last time, he can add
3.4 per cent to his 37.8 per cent from last time. (41.2)
It's fairly well assumed that most of the JHU vote from last time
was from the traditionally UNP vote bank. Assuming that there is
some disenchantment with the monks after some of their electoral
posturing -- and the defection to the UNP of the telegenic Uduwe
Dhammaloka Thero, a further 3 percent from last time's 6 p.c for
the JHU can be counted for Wickremesinghe.
leaves Wickremesinghe with 37.8 + 3.4+ 3, which will be 44.2. The
SLMC's 2 p.c can also be added for the UNP even though it's is on
a give or take a few percentage points basis.
That brings Wickremesinghe upto 46.2 p.c.
This country's swing vote can yo-yo from an acceptable 8 per cent
to a violent 15 to 18 per cent, at the odd election.
But assuming that the swing towards Wickremesinghe is only 5 per
cent from the traditional southern vote base, it means that Wickremesinghe
would have won this election even though barely at 51.2 percent.
If the swing in the heartland is 10 per cent however, he would win
by a landslide 54 per cent or thereabouts. If the swing is over
15 per cent in the traditional Sinhala vote base his victory will
be phenomenal - almost nudging towards the Presidential best of
Chandrika's 62.28 per cent in November 1994.
(Ranil Wickremesinghe's vital statistics were re-worked here from
the cumulative votes of the last general election for the simple
reason it's easier to make an assessment that way -- so please hold
the critique, if you have any, that this analysis is Wickremesinghe
If the vox populi in Mr Rajapakse's pocket burrow seems to be almost
50 / 50 -- allright Rajapakse has the palpable edge there let us
say -- the swing towards Wickremesinghe there will be around 13
per cent at least.
If that's the swing in Rajapakse area, the swing towards the UNP
in the rest of the country -- particularly the urban swathe, will
be the same or more, by a clinical estimation.
That would theoretically at least give Wickremesinghe a 55 and counting
(55+) victory at this election, provided that the North East vote
is not disturbed, disrupted or otherwise messed up. All of which
also has to be qualified by saying that nothing untoward can happen
from now until the last vote is counted, such as an attempted assassination
attempt or something outlandish that the LTTE can notoriously get
Some people say mathematical gut-readings - the fuzzy logic procedure
adopted above - - is for clinically safe individual analysts. They
are of the view that Rajapakse is the runaway favourite as he is
getting the overwhelming majority of the majority community's preference,
which will be something extraordinary and unimaginable for human
minds that work on the basis of analyzing a microcosm of the electorate.
I don't know about that. Sitting here in cool Tangalle, watching
the boats bobbing around in this excruciatingly scenic Tangalle
Bay, I feel light headed. They almost bob to the sway of the people's
verdicts here which bounce between Wickremesinghe and Rajapakse
I will go and spoil that vote myself -- how to choose between an
alien and an obscurantist, no??
Hang the numbers. My beer-gut says Wickremesinghe will probably
win. The vagueness there is my escape clause, but have a closer
look at those above numbers and see if they mean something to you?