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Presidential Election: Exercising sovereignty or betting on handpicked horses?

7 August 2019 12:05 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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People have always been the foolish victims of deception in politics and they always will be….. - Lenin

With the entire citizenry kept in suspense as to who would be the main contenders for the much hyped about Presidential Elections after November 2019, the entire political landscape has assumed the shape of big gambling table. It is so as none of the main players in the hunt for Presidency, in terms of parties and alliances, are yet to come up for certain as to who their best bet would be for Presidency. At least, they have kept it from the public giving rise to untrammeled speculation and all sorts of moves.  

The main three camps in the fray i.e. the UNP, SLPP as well as the SLFP are yet to announce as to who would be their candidate. The UNP on their part, is mulling yet another common front and most probably a common candidate although most of the party stalwarts have expressed their objection to such alliances. Speculation is rife as to whether it is Sajith Premadasa, Karu or Ranil himself. There is a very probable scenario that denial of candidacy to Sajith Premadasa would cause a major friction in the party, which is already in the doldrums as to how to counter the popular backing former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has and which will be conveyed to the candidate nominated by him. On their part, now the SLPP seems to be hoisting Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the former Defence Secretary and MR’s sibling and in the eyes of many, a strong-fisted leader. Yet the reluctance of some in the UPFA such as Kumar Welgama to support GR might be an issue that MR would have to grapple with when he makes a call.  

As far as the SLFP is concerned there is little doubt that, Maithripala Sirisena the incumbent President is the individual who would come forward, if he wishes to do so. At the same time it is without doubt that he would be a weak third place at a Presidential Election without the backing of either SLPP or UNP.   

Secretive affairs 

The entire scenario, thus, constitutes a mystical and secretive state of affairs in relation to the question of who would be the next President of the country. In many ways this is unprecedented in terms of the fact that the candidates specially for Presidential elections have been always been in the open well prior to the election and has hardly a matter of secrecy as is the case this time. Yet in other ways it is indicative and quite symbolic of the way politics have been done in this country after independence, quite specifically in the last 40 years starting from 1977.  

Although we have been a representative democracy since 1931, when we gained universal franchise and after independence we have been said to have been rulers of our own destiny, the role of the majority has been to pick this or that horse who is fielded by the two main parties. They have been asked to place their trust on this one or the other, this concept or the other. They have obliged every time only to be disappointed. Despite a seemingly progressive movement in terms of per capita income and standards of living, the general erosion of democratic mode of governance coupled with decadence in social political cultural and moral planes is disturbing to say the least. The collapse of structures in every of the aforementioned aspects is quite clear in the way politics are done.  

Policy and Principles 

There does not seem to be any policy or principle oriented leadership or representation by those who are elected by the people. They are technically representative of the people to the extent they have been elected by the ballot of the constituency and nothing more. The accountability that is expected of such elected individuals is non-existent, with the expectation of a handful, partly due to the fact there are no mechanisms in place to keep a representative true to their mandate. If the quality of those who allegedly represent us at the Parliamentary level is poor, the situation at sub tiers such as Provincial Councils and Regional Councils is abhorring with all kinds of socio paths and delinquents occupying those seats, originally created to have grass root representation for the people.   

For example, look at the names that are popping up as possible candidates for Presidency! Who are they and what groups do they represent? What does their prior track record suggest? Do they figure as those who would do the best for the country or those who would stick to their personal and selfish agendas? Is their integrity up to the standard of those expected to lead a nation or falls far short behind from that ? In whom does the ordinary UNP’er place their trust? Why is the SLPP candidate supposed to be handpicked by MR? What about the promise that President Sirisena gave when he took oath as President in January 2015 that he would never contest again?  

Demise of political parties 

It would seem that the political party structure is now dismantled and what we have is groupings based on individual or selfish interests of those who flock together. Policy concerns take a back seat and the most shameless compromises are effected for expediency in power politics. What is left now of political parties are powerful individuals and their stooges who flock around them for crumbs that fall from the tables.  

So what are the choices left for the masses at the upcoming Presidential elections? Is it whoever comes out triumphant from the UNP cut-throat power struggle, i.e. Ranil, who has proven umpteen times that he is incapable of governance in a cohesive manner or Sajith who seem to think building up houses and using his fathers name is all what it takes to be the leader of the nation? Or is it whatever ‘horse’ to be picked by MR, which at his point looks more like his sibling Gotabhaya, with so many serious criminal allegations including murder, abduction and grave human rights violations both domestic and abroad? Or is it President Sirisena, who has shown that he does not have the integrity, honesty as well as the wherewithal to occupy the number one seat of governance?  

A fine bunch, one might say! They are exactly right. As things turn out, the non-party candidates have now gone out of the picture, despite a lot of hype created about them during the last few years on social media in particular. Even if they do come forward, they stand little
chance of succeeding.  

The Constitution says that one form in which the ‘People’ exercise sovereignty is through the ballot. But what they are actually left with is picking up a horse and betting on them. It is little better than the process that goes in those places called ‘Betting Centres’!  

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