The SLPP is contesting the parliamentary polls in alliance with the likeminded parties such as the National Freedom Front, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) and Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) (AFP)
As polling day approaches, intra-party forays over preferential votes rage within the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). The SLPP is contesting the polls in alliance with likeminded parties such as the National Freedom Front, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) and Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP).
The SLFP, which supported President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the presidential elections, teamed up with the SLPP to contest the parliamentary elections. Its Leader Maithripala Sirisena is also in the fray representing the Polonnaruwa district. No matter what the SLPP, as the dominant force in the alliance, is now trying to alienate the SLFP despite its electoral understating. At the presidential elections, the SLFP mattered to the SLPP in filling the basket of votes to be sizeable enough to cross the 50 percent mark for its candidate to emerge victorious in the first round itself . In fact, the SLFP was a later addition to the political force that worked for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the elections. The SLFP served in the Yahapalana Government along with the United National Party (UNP). At that time, the SLPP, as the force opposed to the Government, had bitter ties with the SLFP. Later, they patched up differences in view of the presidential elections. Actually, both the parties have a common origin.
The SLPP is eager to muster two-thirds in Parliament though it is an extremely challenging target mainly due to constrains in the present proportional representation system
In politics there are no permanent friends or enemies. Only interests remain. Ground realities prevailed upon the SLPP and the SLFP to stand shoulder to shoulder at the presidential elections. But, the political marriage has turned to be an unpleasant experience in the run-up to the General Elections as obvious from what is heard on the election stages. Now, the SLPP seems to be willing to see the back of the SLFP. However, it cannot undo its electoral pact with the SLFP because a common nomination list has been tendered. But, the SLPP remains the political force that is calling the shots in the alliance since all others including the SLFP are minor allies.
With just a couple of weeks for the day of polling, the SLPP is trying other means to lessen the political relevance of the SLFP in the future Government to be formed after the General Elections. SLPP candidates such as Prasanna Ranatunga from Gampaha openly lashes out at the SLFP and asks party people not to mark their preferential votes for anyone even slightly associated with the blue party. Former President Maithripala Sirisena, who is the SLFP Leader, is subjected to similar slander by SLPP candidate Roshan Ranasinghe in the Polonnaruwa district. Also, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa took an indirect swipe at Hambantota district candidate Mahinda Amaraweera. He did so when he spoke about the Hambantota Port deal during the time of the previous Government.
All sorts of garrulous attacks on the SLFP are aimed at reducing the number of SLFPers getting elected under the SLPP’s lotus bud or Pohottuwa symbol this time. In the Kalutara district, SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris, at an election rally, asked party men to vote for only those who stood by the party and its leader Mahinda Rajapaksa during trying times. This is again an indirect pinpointing of some candidates representing the SLFP.
This is a political phenomenon that resulted from a trust deficit between the two sides. The SLFP is not trusted by the SLPP at all.
The SLPP fears that the SLFP will attempt to stand as a distinct group in a future government if it manages to secure a fair number of seats under the lotus bud symbol. In such an eventuality, the SLPP fears whether the SLFP, with its parliamentary political clout, will strike demands.
In the hope of preempting such plans, the SLPP is trying to ensure that the SLFP’s parliamentary representation is reduced to the lowest possible level. The Prime Minister himself is requesting from people to mark preferential votes only for those who remained with him. In this manner, he will succeed in the prevention of some SLFPers getting elected. However, there are some SLFPers such as Sirisena with sound electoral standing in their respective districts. It will be hard to block such well-entrenched SLFPers from getting elected.
The SLPP is eager to muster two-thirds in Parliament though it is an extremely challenging target mainly due to constrains in the present proportional representation system. After the elections, the SLPP cannot dispense with any member elected on its ticket as such, be it from the SLFP or any other alliance partner. Elected SLFP MPs will stay relevant to the SLPP after the election in such a scenario. But, the SLPP wants to capture parliamentary power only with its own members as much as possible.
Already, the SLPP has vowed to bring about constitutional changes: that is to rescind the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. That will possible only if it can muster two-thirds in the House. Any MP elected on its ticket will matter in this respect.
Another fear harboured by the SLPP is whether the SLFP leadership is having some secret understanding with Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB). UNP candidate for the Colombo district Ravi Karunanayake fanned such fear by directly accusing Sirisena of cajoling the SJB leaders.
Intra-party rivalry is common during elections due to the proportional representation. It becomes normally intense within the ruling party.