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Fresh political challenges for MR after electoral defeat

19 August 2015 05:26 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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As Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)-led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) could not secure more seats than the United National Party (UNP) at Monday’s poll,  former President Mahindra Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the campaign, is slated to encounter yet another political challenge.  That is from his erstwhile colleague   President Maitripala Sirisena who reluctantly gave him nomination to contest the election under the betel symbol of the UPFA. The President gave into pressure from the rank and file of the party, and could not do anything to prevent his nomination.
Nonetheless, the President crafted political strategies in the run-up to the campaign, and that worked very well against Mr. Rajapaksa.   At the beginning, he announced that the premiership would not be given to Mr. Rajapaksa even if he won the election.  It had a detrimental impact on the UPFA campaign. But, the party managed to mitigate the impact towards the end of the campaign period, but the President threw yet another bombshell in the form of a letter addressed to Mr. Rajapaksa. In it, he said there were many other seniors to hold the premiership     if the UPFA won.
First, the President defeated Mr. Rajapaksa at the January 8th election with the backing of a multitude political formation.


Mr. Rajapaksa has again been defeated by a party favoured by the President.  
Hot on the heels of the defeat, President Sirisena sprung to action to consolidate his position in the SLFP, presently consisting of many loyal to Mr. Rajapaksa.   To facilitate the process, the President, with just a couple of days ahead of the day of polling, got rid of   SLFP Secretary Anura    Priyadarsana Yapa and UPFA Secretary Susil Premajayantha, widely considered loyal to Mr. Rajapaksa.  Now, he has acted to appoint former Minister S.B. Dissanayake, as the Treasurer of the party. Mr. Dissanayake, a loyalist of Mr. Sirisena, lost his seat this time.  
In this manner, the President has stepped in to consolidate his control over  SLFP as the party leader, by getting rid of or side lining Rajapaksa loyalists. He stands a better chances for it now that Mr. Rajapaksa is reeling under the impact of his second electoral defeat. Now, Mr. Rajapaksa is compelled to grapple with fresh political challenges, probably unanticipated, for the sake of the political future of those who stood by him.
The President, both as the leader of SLFP and the Head of State with executive powers, has the added advantage in the latest move. But, Mr. Rajapaksa also has a plus point in standing up to this challenge, because many members elected on the UPFA ticket to Parliament are his loyalists. 
After the results were announced, the leaders of the political parties met at the Mirihana residence of Mr. Rajapaksa, and discussed the way forward.  Mr. Rajapaksa said he would  give the political leadership to the Opposition, and play an active role in Parliament. 

At one point, former MP Prof. Rajiwa Wijesinha inquired about the crisis developed in relation to the nomination of members on the National List.   The party secured 12 National List slots. Ahead of the Presidential Election, Prof. Wijesinha defected from the Rajapaksa regime and supported President Sirisena.  Later, he defected from the government and joined back Mr. Rajapaksa.  
Once he inquired about it, National Freedom Front (NFF) Leader Wimal Weerwansa quipped in and said in Sinhala, “Api den aluth wastharak handunwadenna yanne (We going to introduce a new  dress code for National List MPs)’
Next, Ratnapura district MP elect Pavithra Wanniarachchi asked, “Eka Nirwashtrayakda (Is that a revealing  dress code?” The participants burst into laughter followed by this remark. Actually, the crisis over the National List was also discussed at this meeting.  A team of lawyers was consulted in this respect. 
However, it is learnt that a list comprising loyalists of both President Sirisena and Mr. Rajapaksa are to be presented to the Election Commissioner for announcement in a gazette notification.


'' In this manner, the President has stepped in to consolidate his control over SLFP as the party leader, by getting rid of or side lining Rajapaksa loyalists. He stands a better chances for it now that Mr. Rajapaksa is reeling under the impact of his second electoral defeat.''


Buoyed UNP heads to form next government
The UNP, which won 106 seats in the next Parliament, is now heading to form the new government under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. He is slated to take oath as the Prime Minister again tomorrow. The swearing in ceremony has to be postponed till tomorrow as the names of the elected members have not been announced in a gazette notification.   
Discussions were going on round the clock on the appointment of the new cabinet with a lot of bargaining by the aspiring members.    For the post of Ports and Shipping, it is learnt that a lot of bargaining has taken place between two members.  During the 100 day period, Mr. Arjuna Ranatunga held the post. Now, it is learnt that another senior member elected from the Kandy district aspires to become the Ports Development Minister in the next Cabinet. 
 It appears to be an arduous task for the UNP to sort out problems of this nature since it has fallen short of 113 members required to form a government of its own without the support of any other party.  The party can form a minority government, and its allies can hold sway in determining the state of affairs.  Compromises  have to be made necessarily   in accommodating the views of diverse political parties and groups  for stability in the government, as otherwise the dissolution of parliament to seek a fresh mandate is impossible for four and half years. It is more so in the passing of the annual budget in Parliament.  In the event the budget is defeated, the Cabinet of Ministers stand dissolved.  A new government can be formed from among those already in Parliament in such an eventually under the provision of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.    Earlier, Parliament would have been dissolved in such an eventuality. 


UPFA falls short of expectation


 In the run-up to the election, both the UPFA and the UNP sounded confident of victory.  But, the UPFA could not perform up to the expected target. The party fielded Mr. Rajapaksa to contest at the election from the Kurunegala district in the hope of getting more seats from the area, but that strategy did not work as expected. The party got only one seat more than the UNP in the Kurunegala electoral district. 
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe campaigned on the plank of economic revival within 60 months or five years, expresses his confidence of getting the required majority to run the country. Similarly,    UPFA Candidate former President Mahinda Rajapaksa   appeared confident in this respect, and, he even vowed to bag 117 seats in the 
next Parliament.
The political trend, set at the January 8th election against widely perceived corruption, nepotism and the breakdown of rule of law, seems to be working well.  It is reflected in the election of vigorous attackers of the Rajapakasa government on the UNP ticket.  
On the contrary, those, who fully backed Mr. Rajapaksa or stood by him during his trying time, have been elected with high number of preferential votes in the UPFA list this time.  Others have either been defeated or pushed down in the list.  UPFA voters have even rejected heavyweights such as former Ministers S.B. Dissanayake, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardane, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Gamini Wijith Wijeyamuni Zoysa and Jagath Puspakumara.


JVP far behind expectation 
 


In the meantime, many expected that the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) would  emerge as a force to  reckon with  at this election, by winning at least ten seats. The party even gave a fresh outlook to its policies, and sought a mandate at least to become a formidable opposition party in Parliament. The party said it would be a stepping stone for it to secure the parliamentary power in 2020.
But, it too fell short of expectation as it could get only six seats. 
 


 
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