Election awareness

1 February 2018 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The tension of elections once again pervades the air. With 15.8 million Sri Lankans eligible to elect their representatives across 341 local government authorities, this year’s local government elections are to be conducted under a mixed electoral system. The new system will see 60% of candidates elected via the first-past-the-post voting system, where the voter would cast his or her vote for the representative of their choice. The remaining 40% of the process would be via a closed list proportional representation, where voters cast their vote for the preferred political parties as opposed to individual representatives. The Dailymirror took to the streets to gauge public understanding and awareness of the new electoral system. Interestingly many individuals we spoke to had little or no faith in the upcoming election and revealed that they are not looking forward to cast their vote on February 10. Meanwhile many others pointed to several weaknesses in the new system highlighting the need for more such reforms, including an aptitude assessment of candidates.

Pix by Kushan Pathiraja


 

The treasury doesn’t have a cent left

- Suranga(43) Kalutara

“The new electoral system is better than the previous outdated one. But I don’t agree with the number of candidates that will be taking charge of local government bodies as this is a huge sum to be paid in terms of salaries alone. The word on the streets is that the treasury doesn’t have a cent left. Given such a backdrop the only way this system would succeed is if these representatives forgo their benefits at least until the economy turns for the better. Otherwise there will be no change in the local government system. I don’t believe a change would be made with the mandatory quota for women’s representation either. The problems in the system run far deeper than this.”  


 

System should focus on quality of candidates

-Dilrukshi(23) Nikaweratiya

“The new electoral reforms are born out of a good initiative. But there are some major flaws in it. For instance, the system should focus more on the quality of the candidates who are being represented by parties. Their education and aptitude should be assessed, but there is no mechanism to ensure that we get a quality candidate to vote for. Some representatives have not even passed their O/Levels and we select them to govern the country. This should change and that is why I believe the JVP deserves 
my vote.”  


 

 

 

The problem is not in the system alone

- Retired officer speaking on condition of anonymity  

“The system appears to be good, but the problem is not in the system alone. For instance, officers in local government bodies go through years of examinations and possess various qualifications but are forced to work under a politician who has not even passed A/Level exams. This is unfair on the voters of this country and therefore educational requirements are a must. Excluding such factors reflect grave errors of the system.”  


 

The new system facilitates better voter representation

Hansini Kaushalya(24) Colombo

 

“With my limited knowledge of the subject I think the new system is better as it facilitates better representation of the voter. Additionally there will also be less rivalry among candidates and there is more opportunity given for young voices. Women’s representation is encouraged by every party and independent group, therefore I think the new system has been successful.” 

 


With no preferential system there is no tension

- Darshana(40) Horana

“The new system has decreased rivalry between parties as well as candidates, which we can witness already during the campaign period. With the preferential system gone, there is no tension in the air. I have some faith that the new candidates will take their duties seriously and serve the voters.”

 


I have complete faith in the government

- Susantha Weerasinghe(43) Kaduwela

“I’m aware of the new electoral system but I don’t expect to see a great change with the local government election. As per my understanding, the local government authorities must function as the consensus government which is in power at present. I have complete faith in the government and I believe their good work will reflect in election results. I think 95 out of 100 votes will be cast for the United National Party and ensure its victory.”  


 

 

Better is about to take place

- T. Wanigasekara (53) Maharagama

“The new system is good as it downplays the chances of rivalry between parties. I also saw that new candidates have been given the opportunity to contest. Even though, I don’t have a complete understanding of this system but I have faith that change for the better is about to take place.”   


 

I don’t have faith in any change in the political arena

- A.G. Jagath(45) Kaduwela

“With the elimination of the preferential vote based rivalry with the new system, we are ensured a peaceful election day. This is a very good sign. I don’t think there will be any drastic changes either in the lead up to the election or following the election. It’s a commendable aspect of the new system that young candidates have been encouraged to contest. But I don’t have faith in a significant change in the political arena.”  


 

 

Elected candidates forget voters when they take office

Gamini Peters Payagala

 

“The new system is good as it instills increased responsibility on the parties who field candidates for the local government bodies. Selection of representatives through wards is the correct way to proceed as opposed to the former system, where the elected candidates forget voters as soon as they take office.”  


 

 

We need the preferential vote system 

- Anton Perera(71) Kelaniya

 

“I see both positive and negative aspects of the new electoral system. The party is represented by the people therefore I think we need the preferential vote system to see those who really work towards the development of their voter, being elected to office. On the other hand the inclusion of women’s representation is certainly encouraging.”  


 

 

We need to see new faces representing us

- P.J. Dodawatte(67) Malabe

 

“What we need is not just a new electoral system but an entirely new party comprising new political candidates. I think I speak for a majority when I say that we need to see new faces representing us. Looking at the personalities, behaviour and actions of the new candidates, I have no faith that they will do us any good even if elected. We need intelligent and educated candidates to represent us and for that a completely new party must be formed.”  


 

Doubling candidates is a waste of our money

Janaka Perera(35) Kohuwala

 

“I don’t believe the new system will cause significant change in this country. I think youth representation has failed too. Electing double the number of candidates to office with this new system is a complete waste of our money. The effectiveness of the mandatory quota for women’s representation is yet to be seen. Female candidates have a task of testing the waters with this experience as the current political environment is not created to encourage them. Therefore its impact is yet to be witnessed.”  


 

 

We want to see politicians engage in real work

- Chinthaka(53) Weligama

“I have understood the new election system well but I have decided not to cast my vote. I think it’s a futile exercise because I don’t want to vote for people who engage in debates about who swindled public funds first. We the voters wish to see real development in Sri Lanka. We want to see politicians engage in real work. The new electoral system is good, but with the number of candidates almost doubled, it is the voter who has to ultimately foot the bill. Why should we do that when politicians repeatedly fail to resolve persistent issues? All we ask of them is to help uplift our livelihoods and improve our lifestyles. Surely a majority of the voters feel the same way. The results of this election are not apparent yet.”  


 

The new system will discourage rivalry for preferential votes

- Priyantha Jayarathne(47) Kandy

“In my opinion, the new electoral system is a good one. It will discourage rivalry for preferential votes among candidates which usually plague elections. I don’t think the increase in representatives in local government bodies is a cost to the nation, it is more of a requirement to serve the people. However I think when it comes to women, they will face difficulty in contesting, given the current set-up.”  


 

 

Elections are useless in propagating change this country desperately needs

- Abeygunawardana(65) Minuwangoda

“Elections are completely useless in propagating change this country desperately needs. The new mixed electoral system I believe is good in theory. It is much better than the previous system as we are sure to witness less clashes between parties and candidates. But as long as we don’t select educated people to be our representatives, no amount of changes will warrant the solution to persistent issues in the local government level.”  


 

Lethargy in govt. servants hasn’t changed

Weerasiri, (83)  Enderamulla

“The people in this country do not engage in productive work. I have been employed in 27 different places and worked with many people during my 50-year employment period. But one thing that hasn’t changed all these years is the lethargy especially in government servants. The same applies for the local government elections. Even though the new electoral system is good, 90% of these representatives are likely to ignore serving their wards. They must serve their people and for this they should have a deeper understanding of the voter’s needs. Until they have this understanding, elections will be a futile exercise.”  


 

 

Happy that women have the opportunity to contest

- Sifayaah(42) Slave Island

“I don’t have much awareness of the new electoral system to comment on it. However I have seen a number of young candidates being fielded by parties and I believe this is what we need. I intend to cast my vote and I’m happy that women have also been given the opportunity to contest. We would like to see new faces and young people serving their wards.”  


Candidates should have their own views

- Iresha Maduwanthi(21) Kiribathgoda

 

“Ï don’t keep track of current events and therefore I don’t have a great understanding of the new electoral system. I personally believe that each candidate should have their own views, morale and discipline. If these election reforms can ensure that kind of development in our politicians, then it is a good sign.”  


 

 

I’m positive that we need change

- W. Kumuduni(54)Nugegoda

 

“I’m not aware of the new electoral system a great deal but I’m positive that we need change. We need more and more women’s representatives to voice our issues and to fight for our issues. It’s a positive sign of change that the role of women has been deliberated and we have been provided an inclusive environment in the forthcoming election.”  


 

System may not elect voter’s preferred candidate

- Tissa Jayathilaka(49) Rajagiriya

“The mixed electoral system is a good standard to abide by. When representatives are elected through wards, the voter is better represented and the candidate is more accountable. The only issue I see is that this system may not elect the preferred candidate of the voter. But this is for future to tell. The elected candidate may not be the preferred one but could be the best one for a particular ward. There are also certain faults in the candidates fielded by parties but overall the new system has the ability to develop the villages and rural areas which need attention of the lawmakers.”  

 

 

 

 

  

 

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