ext Presidential Election will be fought on the wavelength of a Mahinda Plus (+) to a Mahinda Minus (-); with the waveband set on his eight-year regime. To be precise: Will Mahinda, be good or bad personally for you in the next few years? It is the ultimate question that will decide the election.
Colombians will lose the election again on pressing with the perennial issue that sails above the head of the voters, that fails to ignite even a feint touch of interest amongst the ordinary voters, in this or previous elections: Abolition of the Presidency? Chandrika promised it; Mahinda approved it. Neither did it. They won the second term forgetting the issue? The war was won because of the Executive Presidency! People are only concerned on issues that hurt them. People feel they have done sufficiently for the country in winning the war against terrorism. Now it is the time to think of one-self: with life being hard. To hell with the executive presidency - a non - issue that titillates the intelligentsia.
The whole story is about One Man: its the peoples’ decision whether to exercise the vote privately in favour or against him? Majority has made the decision. It is not an easy election either for Mahinda or his opponent. Those who think of the country or society or community are an insignificant handful. People think of themselves and their families first.
The other man is Ranil: presently in the “also ran” column: the only Opposition candidate who has a chance of winning the Presidential Election. Undoubtedly the strongest common candidate for the reason he is the leader of the UNP. The rest of the gathering at the temple of Rev Sobhita - Colombian Chief Priest- will be a band of off-grade seekers for the title of common candidate –dropouts that failed to make the grade. If any other mounts the common candidate’s podium, instead of Ranil, especially Chandrika Kumaranatunga it will make Mahinda’s task much easier. The opposition will come from within.
UNP trio, Ranil, Sajith and Karu, working in unison need take the battle to the second count, where the lead candidate Mahinda, is unable to garner the needed 50% of the valid votes cast. The second preferential vote of the TNA and JVP vote base will slide in favour of any candidate but Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Ranil needs to concentrate on the negatives of Mahinda, which is more appealing than his own positives. North will bring him a comfortable lead of 375,000 votes before the ballot boxes are opened for the count. It is at that point Ranil reaches his prime but will fall back as the Southern vote is counted. He has to get the minorities to bend to him to reduce the lead Rajapaksa will establish in the early tallies from rural electorates. Rajapaksa can win every electorate in the South (except the metropolitan city seats) but still will lose the presidential election if he fails to off-set the North-East vote with heavy majorities in the South. This will be the first time North will unleash its full vote in its fury.
Ranil has positives few other politicians possess. He is clean and clever but more in the Anura Bandaranaike mode. Not a man of the People or stands fanatically for the Country that makes him reluctantly shy away from being a true patriot. A truly realistic man who carries it too far to a point of the surreal. He will never say Sri Lanka is the splendor of Asia but a village in the global network. That does not sound good to the voter. Ranil should be more appealing to the youth with his modernised vision but the message remains buried in a maze in a disorganised party machine. If Ranil forfeits the right to mount the challenge at the forthcoming election, he will be making a larger mistake than when he surrendered his rights to General Fonseka. Fonseka was a national hero after the war? Chandrika cannot match the image of General Fonseka-then or now.
Times have indeed changed socially from the period of the renaissance of the ’56 era. Emerging middle-income society is still staunchly Sinhala Buddhist especially after the war but their outlook is becoming more sophisticated and modern. Buddhist leaders are incapable of keeping abreast of the developing trends to match the under-currents of its youthful society where its value structure is complex to comprehend. New look monks carry the message further than the traditional monks with the young.
Try to read it this way to understand.
Then, pretty secretaries married their fat bosses and were displayed as prized trophies for public consumption but it was another story at home; doctors compelled to marry their playful nurses hardly presented their wives in public in fear of the lack of social graces.
Now, youth are different- with women numerically over taking the men in professions, consultants marrying consultants and bosses marry bosses. Secretaries and Nurses are pretty and playful as ever but have their trade unions and dinner dances to invite Boss & Wife for a function and keep a safe distance.
Then, elections meant a change of government each time but now the Presidency has been in bosom of one party for four terms from November 1994. Those kids that vote for the first time have not seen a President from another party or hardly seen another administration and are unable to make a comparison of the bad from the worse. Many of the youth of then, that have voted more than once, now reach forty and have not seen a functional administration except the present- but for the brief interlude of the Ranil Wickremasinghe’s government in office.That was not a success.
People that lived through periods of war and peace appreciates the difference between the two eras at home, school and office; saw a President nearly assassinated yet tamely succumbing to the might of the Tigers to a President that decimated the ferocious Tigers and is not succumbing to threats of the West. They both came from the blue corner. Greens hold a vantage; youth hardly saw them in the government. They know the UNP as a perennial fixture in the permanent Opposition and know the looks of the Opposition.
Youth have seen the best and the worst of a government in power. They were preparing for a continuation of another term when Badulla delivered a result that pulled Humpty Dumpty down from the wall, yet gave him time to gather the pieces to get back on the wall. But the King’s men may stand in the way of gathering pieces and placing Humpty back again on the wall because the young surely do not like most of the king’ men: youth may still respond to the call of a ‘long live the king’ scream yet will shout hoarse to down his horsemen. Youth yearn for a change, a change for the better.
Strange, in the age of Apple, young can take two bites at the forbidden fruit and hope their dreams might come true- for they vote at the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Down the wire it will travel as twin battles between Mahinda vs Ranil followed by UPFA vs Rest. There can be a President from one party and a Prime Minister from another and a Cabinet from a combination. But the power is with the President as the Supreme Court of Chief Justice Silva deemed.
Youth observed parliamentarians cross the floor of the House and living happily thereafter in the cabinet till the day of reckoning arrives when they loose parliamentary privileges. Such enabling judgments were given by courts during a period of judicial de-activism when Sarath Silva ruled as Chief Justice that he may care to apologise till his dying day of helping a government to prop up and thereafter desirous of bringing it down (spare a though for the other two worthy honourable judges who were associated in writing the judgment in Help-in Hambantota). Such is the way of a man who lives for himself.
Youth that vote for the first time give sway to idealism and are optimistic not opportunistic. Romanticism leads to fantasizing to live in a better country, for a better tomorrow. They take pride in taming terrorism and are ashamed of the surrounding corruption and the way society is being fashioned. Not those urban kids that make their parents break the hard filled family to send them to study abroad but those simple kids that know they have to live their lives in the home country on scholarship or on home support. Youthful form the under- 40 Club (more than 50 % of the voting population) that will decide who will rule in 2015.
The difference is that Rajapaksa moves with the young in provincial schools distributing high tech computer equipment for which they and their parents are grateful; his reach is not for the Colombo kids except those in the rugby stands. Kids in cities source through social media networks that tweets messages or open pages in the Facebook the extent of corruption, waste and breakdown of law and order in the country. Yet computer society has not reached the villagers where the bulk of the youth live. To them its jobs and economy, which won support at the last budget but is yet to materialise. Life is indeed tough for candidates as they cast their vote.
It’s the vote of the under-40 club that will decide the winner.