The popular question that is making the rounds is “Who would come on top, at this election?”
They mean “Which party?” Will MR and his SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) outnumber Sirisena’s SLFP and the UPFA? What most, want to know in advance is the outcome of the elections.
The winner for sure will not be decided by the voter.
If the party that takes control of the most number of LG bodies is counted as the “winner” that will be decided within hours and days by elected men and women, who would ‘leapfrog’ to create majorities in LG bodies.
This election would leave many frustrated and disgusted voters away from polling booths.
Bloated and ballooned aspirations that accompanied the January 2015 euphoria shrank and were deflated even before the 100-Day Programme was over.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was “dethroned” seven months before, bounced back strong, leading the SLFP/UPFA campaign.
He campaigned for the SLFP/UPFA with the horrible disadvantage of having a President (Also the President of the SLFP) who threw every spanner, every hammer against his campaign that yet gave the SLFP/UPFA the 95 seats in the present Parliament.
It was also evident in Wickremesinghe and his UNP with many allies calling themselves the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) failing to win the minimum 113 seats required for majority rule.
The President, who promised to be the servant of the people, who promised to be non-partisan and would leave after the first term, would do away with the Executive Presidency, is nowhere to be found in political terms
In terms of voting, with 77.6 percent polled, Rajapaksa gained 42.4 percent while Wickremesinghe led UNFGG polled 45.6 percent.
Two years and five months later, the situation is worse.
The President, who promised to be the servant of the people, who promised to be non-partisan and would leave after the first term, would do away with the Executive Presidency, is nowhere to be found in political terms.
So is the UNFGG leader Wickremesinghe who promised “clean” and transparent governance, promised to roll back all Chinese projects the Rajapaksas began and promised ‘fast track investigations’ on corruption against all in the previous regime including Rajapaksa.
As the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has failed with his Government in resurrecting an ailing economy, he keeps blaming the Rajapaksas for.
Yet, his Government has taken over all Chinese projects that during 2015 Presidential Election campaign were condemned as unsolicited, worthless projects.
His UNFGG Government is seen and talked of as corrupt as the Rajapaksa regime or even more. It is publicly labelled as wholly inefficient too.
The synergy of all those negatives in society will not see 77 percent going to polls t February 10 LG Elections have never generated enough enthusiasm to bring large numbers to vote.
At the last LG elections with a post-war exuberant Rajapaksa Presidency in 2011, the total polled was only 65.5 percent. This time, it would be an unexplainable miracle, if more than 60 percent decides to vote.
There is also the possibility of counting a higher percentage of “rejected votes” than usual. The biggest disadvantage of a large percentage drop in voting would be for the UNP and the ITAK.
Burdened with a terribly discredited government accused of mega corruptions, Wickramasinghe led campaign will not be able to maintain the 45 percent they previously got out of the total polled. Within the UNP there is also the cold and dejected feeling of running elections with Wickramasinghe at the head. All of it would leave the UNP vote this February around 35 percent of the total polled.
So would it be for the Sampanthan - Sumanthiran led TNA. The TNA started off with fractures. Suresh Premachandran EPRLF, the well-spread organisation from among former armed groups, has allied with Ananda Sangaree’s TULF.
At the local level, this new combination could be the recipient of frustrated and dissenting Northern votes.
Meanwhile, the ITAK leadership has over the past two years lost credibility by playing truant with this “Yahapalanaya” Government.
Unable to politically read this government as another Colombo based Sinhala Government, their blind faith in the UNP leadership has left them as betrayers of the war-affected Tamil people.
The TNA (In fact it is ITAK) leadership failed in securing release of youth detained without charges, failed to stand along with agitating women, who demand answers from the Government on disappeared relatives, failed in securing private land occupied by the security forces and they refrain from speaking about continued militarization of Northern and Eastern socio-economic life.
Nor will the promised political solution through a new Constitution that Sampanthan said would be complete before end December 2016 ever see the light of day even after December 2018.
Not even after the TNA leadership dropped the Federal solution promised in their 2015 Parliamentary election manifesto.
The TNA will therefore not be able to poll the percentages they had in North and East at the 2015 Parliamentary elections. At that election when Sampanthan wanted the hand of the TNA strengthened to make him a stronger bargaining power for Tamil people, the TNA polled 69.1 percent in Jaffna, 54.6 percent in the Vanni, and a total of 30.9 percent in the East with Batticaloa gaining 53.3 percent of the total polled in the district.
The EPDP and TULF campaigns would also add to the already heavy baggage of the TNA, especially in Jaffna and Vanni. Northern Province Chief Minister Wigneswaran playing it safe and his absence would not be for the advantage of the TNA either.
Bottom line is, the ITAK leadership will be clearly told by the Tamil people, they are not worthy of the war-affected Tamil people’s vote and what they poll is due to the absence of a viable alternate Tamil leadership.
In the Southern Sinhala districts, with a large percentage of Christian-Catholic vote traditionally going the UNP way despite its efforts to win more of the Sinhala Buddhist votes, the battle between President Sirisena’s SLFP/UPFA campaign and that of Rajapaksa with his SLPP is for the bulk of the Sinhala Buddhist vote.
Sirisena leading the SLFP/UPFA campaign cannot reach the UNP vote bloc. Even those local UNP leaders, who are disappointed with their own party leadership, will not choose Sirisena as an option.
President Sirisena, therefore, has nowhere else to go for votes but to the 4.7 million that Rajapaksa brought together for the SLFP/UPFA at the 2015 August election.
That is a totally anti-UNP vote.
President Sirisena’s leadership cannot address that voting bloc unless he stands as a strong anti-UNP leader. This is not possible with Rajapaksa and the SLPP targeting him as part of the UNP Government and him chairing Cabinet meetings during the next four weeks, taking decisions along with PM Wickremesinghe.
For that reason, he is charting an anti-corruption, puritanical path.
He perhaps believes that would make him attractive to the anti-UNP rural voter. Reading out a carefully written statement on the Bond Scam Report, President Sirisena on Wednesday made all attempts to sound his anti-corruption drive is non-partisan while promising all recommendations would be implemented and monitored.
He concluded by saying not only the Bond Scam Report but also the PRECIFAC Reports so far handed over to him would go through their due processes of litigation.
He also promised they would not be politically interfered with. Interestingly, while he refrained from naming persons, he nevertheless said PM Wickremesinghe’s responsibility for former Central Bank’s former Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s appointment and conduct had been established.
He also said former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake could be held responsible for interference and could be further investigated on the Penthouse renting issue an indicted.
He thus laid the Bond Scam squarely on the UNP leadership though without much hype.
All that indicates, his own SLFP Ministers and campaigners would now go on an open anti-UNP campaign.
They may even name others, who are held responsible by the Commission for manipulations and cover-ups.
Political campaigns don’t end up one way. The SLPP campaign to retain their anti-Government SLFP vote bloc will not allow President Sirisena to go without responsibility in all corruptions alleged under this Yahapalanaya Government.
President Sirisena himself has been accused of a big “deal” over the purchase of a Russian Naval vessel and a much heavier spectrum deal that is said to be over Rs.03 billion given without any tender procedure by the TRC that comes under President Sirisena.
For both deals it is said two top men, the Navy Commander Admiral Travis Sinniah and ICTA CEO/MD Muhunthan Canagey were moved out most unceremoniously by President Sirisena.
It is any one’s guess, the UNP campaign would also have its share of name calling on corruption. The LG elections this time may be one that would expose many corrupt personalities.
In February when the LG election concludes, the future of the Yahapalanaya Government would also be decided by it.
If Rajapaksa with the SLPP retained the larger share of the 4.7 million anti-UNP vote, it would mean the SLFP has politically morphed into Rajapaksa’s SLPP. President Sirisena will then be left with a serious crisis in his own camp. Most would want Rajapaksa back again with the SLFP to face their own elections in mid-2020.
Either way, the results would leave very little possibility for the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government to continue, except as a coalition of two very shameless opportunist camps.
As for the people both in the North and the South, the LG Elections would serve no purpose.
It would leave them with political instability amidst economic chaos and many episodes of political backstabbing at the high level.
A fast-moving year of predictable crises all around.