At the rehearsal a marquee was propped to entertain voters - it need be reassembled at the next outing with future elections getting hotter and closer. Who will stand on the victory stand? Is it the obvious candidate, as always? Eyebrows will be raised if the opposition finds a common candidate.Provincial Council elections are loose balloons launched to gauge political weather patterns. The most formidable factor emerging is, unless there is a common candidate from the opposition it is a one-horse race but a formidable candidate can mount a serious challenge in view of an avalanche of votes from the North and to an extent from the East coming to offset the southern majorities at a presidential election.
A decline and a switch between 14% and 11% of the public servants’ vote from the UPFA to the Opposition is significant. Normally the public servants are the early trendsetters whose footsteps often are followed by the general public. The JVP seems to attract the protest vote in the deep South and seems energised with a change of leadership. There is a struggle for the third place between the JVP and Sarath Fonseka’s Democratic Party that appears to be the party that has picked up most of the declining vote from the UPFA and the UNP.
"Damn the economy – money jingles in the pockets of the zestful emerging rural/urban lower middle class yet does not last long with the frequent price-hikes"
Look at the flipside. Voters are seasoned and experienced hands: those that trekked to the polling booths - voted on conviction rather than on compulsion: living amidst adverse conditions with spiraling prices that hit their hip pockets and handbags. Like it or not, it’s the people's verdict – notwithstanding the undue advantage sought by unfair utilisation of public assets by the government. If it outrageously repelled the voters, the majorities would have been slimmer. All governments in power are perennial election offenders- an accepted common denominator mindful of the infamous referendum.Voters conveyed the message: there is a protest vote developing against the government that is reflected for the first time after 2005. This is an election from which the opposition can pick the momentum.
A significant factor is the low voter turnout compared to the last provincial elections. Was it a silent protest against the government by its supporters or a general apathy towards casting the ballot –a virtual rejection of all political parties? Ballots cast show it is the UPFA voters who stayed more at home – worrying concern for the government if it gains ground. It’s a comfort result for the opposition.At a critical future election, government supporters who abstained from voting this time, after watching the conduct of the government may opt to come back home or if dissatisfied might switch to the opposition. There will be a large pool of floating voters on hold to be tapped.
"If it is manipulated internationally there is a distant possibility of delivery"
Is a regime change an event of the past? Don’t write it off.External forces can engineer it by imposing economic impediments or left to the locals,among the domestic players - Central Bank or Treasury can place the country in financial doldrums with their bewildering economic wizardry. Nevertheless both institutions will ensure fair winds will prevail, at least, till the end of the coming election period.
Fold the election map for another six years? Not necessarily. More likely, all that is deemed foul will treble. Money will flow to government pockets primarily from sources associated dearly with the UNP- turncoats of 2005 waiting craftily for a regime change, till then will purchase those things that matter. They contributed immensely to the protest vote with their antics that was registered against the government.
People have limits to tolerance, if the economic crunch hits them in the belly. A regime change implemented locally is as unlikely to witness as a Barbie doll dressed in cloth and jacket.If any assignment is left to the opposition- they will unwittingly strengthen the government. If it is manipulated internationally there is a distant possibility of delivery: yet it will fail to win favour with an electorate that is passionately patriotic. A point ignored by the opposition combine that costs them many elections.
Provincial Council election results bring forth stark facts more convincingly than predictions made by calculating planetary trajectories. True, government is fast losing its popularity at the ground level but when it comes to the vote, notwithstanding unpardonable deficiencies, is still the preferred option.Hambantota is synonymous with the Rajapaksa family found Sajith Premadasa bringing happy tidings to the UNP. It was the Western and Southern provincial elections that nudged Chandrika Kumaranatunga to power over a long-standing UNP regime and bought her presidency. For the opposition too, this could be the turning point.
"A decline and a switch between 14% and 11% of the public servants’ vote from the UPFA to the Opposition is significant"
A queer phenomenon lies between a sharp contrast - blatantly blame the government and afterwards vote comprehensively for its continuity. The answer is simple – an uninspiring opposition that cannot be placed in power, in fear they might bend to hostile foreigners and sell the country. The hangover of winning the war still prevails and haunts an opposition that stupidly cohabits with forces hostile to the national cause alienating itself from the people. The government majorities are tough to overhaul if those who stayed at home to protest come back to vote. Yes, the next election is dependent on the floating voter. Public servants will start looking at the opposition and that will accelerate with time as the national elections near.
Colombo city looks its best yet that did not bring the desired vote for the government: walkers and joggers appreciate the facilities provided yet they vote with a pencil in their fist and kick the government with their Reebok rubbers. That is democracy working overtime. Government was trashed in metropolitan Colombo; did marginally better in “inner” Colombo electorates (Dehiwela, Kotte, Ratmalana, Kollonnawa) and won more comfortably in the “outer” Colombo electorates (Kaduwela, Maharagama, Homagama and Avissawella). It is in the Colombo district that the UNP has done well at the expense of the UPFA, but has been arrested of the greater flow of votes by the presence of Sarath Fonseka who has continued to extract votes from both sides.
Some are bred and born UNP of hard rock that will not move unless detonated, some others living in Colombo accept it is truly a beautified city but find the corrosive stink within the government too nauseating to approve notwithstanding the emerging dainty landscape. Their vote speaks of their conscience.
The emergence of Sarath Fonseka is attributable to dissatisfaction originating from the mainstream parties.Sarath Fonseka or his Democratic Party cannot make a serious challenge at the national level but the presence will prevent an anti-government bulk vote being attracted to the UNP as Sarath Fonseka has a picked substantial portion of it.
Being the common candidate at the last presidential election,Fonseka has been able to retain and acquire support from those that oppose the UPFA and UNP – more a worry for the UNP. An aspect UNP needs to ponder - is there is an effort to select a common candidate for the Presidential election again, from outside the UNP?They should not make the mistake again while being mindful that a common candidate is the only answer for the UNP provided it provides the candidate. Damn the economy – money jingles in the pockets of the zestful emerging rural/urban lower middle class yet does not last long with the frequent price-hikes. The boom took off with the winning of the war giving a thumbs up signal to economic resurgence of enterprising individuals in a peaceful society - it does not extend to the corporates because it is too visible to the political authority: easier to pick such pockets. Private sector has slavishly bowed humbly to accommodate the political authority and has to pay the price for it.
Those that live for today and think of the country for tomorrow without foreign domination mostly voted for the government; but those who remember of a better yesterday where there were shades of democracy and better governance, voted for the opposition – democrats, socialists, idealists, liberalists and colonialists. On every possible classification –except in metropolitan Colombo – the government maintains a formidable lead in votes. Opposition has to set up a credible road map to strategize a comeback. The opposition in desperation may seek foreign assistance for a regime change but that is likely to backfire as bulk of the people will be hostile to any foreign inter-meddling and will rally around the lion flag and back the government. The holding of the national elections is unlikely to be delayed until 2016. The government is on notice to change its style of governance. The government might opt for a general election rather than a presidential on the results just published. Neither the UPFA nor the UNP can rest on laurels of this result. The result is more comforting to the JVP and Democratic Party, but the furthest they can travel is to battle for the third and fourth positions. All the benefits that accrued to the several opposition parties might finally sit on the lap of the UNP – a winner normally takes all at the expense of others. Problem for the government is that unless confidence is installed rapidly an exodus might quietly begin among the fortune hunters.