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What is important in people’s point of view, in respect of the election results is not who won the election but what the winner is going to do

  • The seeds of ethnic-based representation in the legislature were sown in the 1920s by the then British colonial rulers
  • Need of a Parliament had not arisen even to face the threat posed by the COVID 19, as President Rajapaksa had sufficient powers and he had been doing everything efficiently
  • Keeping the election promises amidst the debt burden and spiralling cost-of-living is also going to be a credibility test for the new government

The victory of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) at the Wednesday’s Parliamentary election was not a surprise; it was a foregone conclusion, since last Local Government elections held on February 10, 2018. The vote bank of the United National Party (UNP), the main rival of the SLPP had eroded to such an extent at that Local Government elections.  
The UNP was the party behind President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat at the 2015 Presidential election and that of his United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) at the subsequent Parliamentary Election in the same year. However, within three years the UNP had lost one-third of its vote bank. 
Before the party was able to come out of that shock and realize what happened to it, the already soured relationship between the party and President Maithripala Sirisena strained, weakening it further. And the leadership tussle between UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa split the party, assuring the SLPP an easy victory at the last year’s Presidential Election and this Parliamentary Election.  


SLPP’s victory on Wednesday was such a foregone conclusion that even the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) which was obvious to be the runner up was seen nowhere near the victor. 
Contrary to the rhetorical boast by the leaders of the UNP and the SJB that they would form the next government, even the rank and file of the two parties knew that it was just bragging. The UNP was so desperate in finding candidates that even some political leftovers were included.  
Hence, the debate before the election was not about who the winner would be, but whether the SLPP would obtain a two-thirds majority in Parliament at this election. 
The firmness that had been instilled by the SLPP leaders in their supporters on obtaining the two-thirds majority was such that they seemed to have been taken aback by a statement by SLPP National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa on Sunday that the party would get only 130 to 135 seats at this election. Pro-SLPP newspapers except for one had opted to omit that point when reporting his briefing at the SLPP’s last press conference before the election.  

"The UNP was the party behind President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat at the 2015 Presidential election and that of his United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) at the subsequent Parliamentary Election in the same year. However, within three years the UNP had lost one-third of its vote bank"

The SLPP leaders and media supportive of the party were so obsessed with the two-thirds majority that they forgot their argument floated a few weeks ago against the demand by the Opposition parties to reconvene the Parliament that had been dissolved by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on March 2.  
They then contended that need of a Parliament had not arisen even to face the threat posed by the COVID 19, as President Rajapaksa had sufficient powers and he had been doing everything efficiently. However, when it came to the two-thirds majority they requested the people to strengthen his hands with such a Parliamentary power to run the country efficiently.  
What is important in people’s point of view, in respect of the election results is not who won the election but what the winner is going to do. It was another foregone conclusion that the SLPP would buy over MPs from other political parties returned to the Parliament to get the two-thirds majority if it failed to do so at the election. And leaders of the party had been vowing to do away with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution with that special majority.  
However, the SLPP leaders did not explain to the country before the election as to what would replace the 19th Amendment. There are fears among a segment of people who are concerned about democracy that the new government would replace it with the 18th Amendment which in 2010 had abolished the independent commissions and the President’s term limit.  


Also, minority and minor party leaders were anxious in the wake of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa assuming office about the possibility of the government threatening their very survival. 
The President stated in his policy statement at the inauguration of the fourth session of the 8th Parliament on January 3  
“They (people) rejected political agendas founded on race… I call upon all to join together in the national undertaking to develop this country, and to reject the politics based on petty agendas that have sown division in our society in the past.”   
Within days former Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe had also presented a Constitutional Amendment to increase the cut-off point for political parties to be eligible for seats in Parliament and Provincial Councils, from 5 per cent to 12.5 per cent.  
The polarization of voters at the August 5 Parliamentary Election on ethnic lines – though it has become customary in the recent past - might have again reminded the authorities what they wanted on the wake of the Presidential election.  


Nevertheless, polarization is not a result of only the power-hunger of the leaders of the minority communities.  
Rather, it is mainly the result of a historical process and hence, they were not the only group to blame. The seeds of ethnic-based representation in the legislature were sown in the 1920s by the then British colonial rulers, leading to Tamil political parties being formed later while the insecure feeling by the Muslims in the East during the war between the armed forces and the LTTE had paved the way for the creation of Muslim political parties.  
The Proportional Representation (PR) system and the preferential voting at elections strengthened the ethnic mindset in politics, involving all three communities.  
Insecure feeling in the light of threats posed by the groups such as BBS further vindicated the existence of such ethnicity-based parties. The recognition received by Rishad Bathiudeen’s ACMC in the Vanni and the East at Wednesday’s election is food for thought.  

"Contrary to the rhetorical boast by the leaders of the UNP and the SJB that they would form the next government, even the rank and file of the two parties knew that it was just bragging. The UNP was so desperate in finding candidates that even some political leftovers were included"

Yet, absorbing Muslims into the major political parties is easier than taking the Tamils on board, as the former has no specific political demands like self-determination, traditional homeland, the merger of provinces and Federalism put forward by Tamil leaders.  
Besides, there was a considerable trend among Muslims towards the SLPP following the last year’s Presidential Election which faded away with the cremation of four Muslims died of COVID 19. Reconciliation and assimilation is a mutual and two-way process.  
The new government is to be put to test immediately by several major issues such as the proposed agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the US and the problems involving the eastern terminal of the Colombo harbour.  
Keeping the election promises amidst the debt burden and spiralling cost-of-living is also going to be a credibility test for the new government.  
However, the new government could learn a lot from the Mahinda Rajapaksa government which was elected with a near two-thirds majority (144 seats) in 2010 but defeated in five years and the failures of the so-called Yahapalana Government.  

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