Will the President continue using his trump card in hand instead of making fresh changes
he Uva Provincial Council is a rehearsal for the coming Presidential and General elections.
Winning three electorates and increasing the vote base and closing majorities to a mean point shows UNP is back in business – if Badulla is looked at in isolation.On this result UNP can pick the needed momentum. UNP still hasa great distance to cover to strike the jackpot. If the Opposition votes are aggregated the Government has lost Badulla.
UNP’s heavy defeat in Moneragala removes any comfort factor that Chandrika Bandaranaike enjoyed in winning the provincial councils of the Western and Southern Provinces and makes the road ahead a tough ride for either party. The margins in the Badulla electorates were a body blow to the prestige of the UPFA that was previously cruising on a comfortable winning streak.
Hidden beneath the Badulla soil is a layer of UNP of hard rock.
Statistically, Opposition, does better at Presidential than at Provincial elections in Badulla- UNP’s virtual home ground.
Badulla District, is staid UNP of the old school, faithful to the green party, returned
8 of the 9 constituencies to the UNP, at a time when Mahinda Rajapakse carried the country in 2005 by a wafer thin 0.2% above the required strike point.
On its border lies Moneragala District, a UPFA fortress that climaxed for the blues at the re-election of Mahinda Rajapakse in 2010 with a whopping 81% -15% margin.
Strange, not even a natural boundary exists to divide the neighbouring districts of contrasting character - surveyor’s pencil has drawn a Jekyll and Hyde segment.
Mahinda Rajapakse’s main concern would be the numbers that crossed party lines-especially the public servants-since the last provincial council elections in Uva: indeed a worrying concern for a government badly in search of majorities. It’s a message sent with black borders to the Government.
UPFA cannot expect to gain the thumping majorities they picked in 2009/2010 after winning the war. Holding office continually for 26 years naturally causes a decline in the vote. This result shows winning the war does not offer a safe passage for a lifetime.
There is obvious dissatisfaction in the rural meadows that traditionally sailed happily with the government. Did the opposition effect the dismantling or did the government cause a self -inflicted pain? Cost of living is striking the people cruelly to make them bitter. The best friends of the opposition come from the heart of the government- those that skew the economy hurts people.
A nine – year old regime held both districts on an asymmetrical trajectory. Substantial increase in the vote gained in Badulla show UNP is up and alive after previously showing signs of a debilitating stroke.Face it- the result is not slanted-that is poppycock; the Opposition has yet to learn to counter a tsunami mastering the art of disaster management.A slow start was made where green shirts, inconspicuous in the past, were seen in plenty on the roads of Badulla.
Public servants are the cutting edge as the listening post of the future. They will analyse the Uva result to determine the winner at the Presidential election and let it sink into their system of loyalty. To whom they owe allegiance is very meaningful between nomination day and election date.Public servants voted with the government but in decreasing numbers.
The 2015 presidential stake is a tougher proposition for Mahinda Rajapakse than the elections of 2005 or 2010. He created a free flow of votes in the North to support democracy. On the strength of that vote, TNA and Diaspora will urge the northerners to topple the incumbent– a challenge hitherto not encountered! If they responded gamely it could provide a majority of around 375,000 votes, provided the polling is heavy.To offset that number the President has to win with sprawling majorities in friendly electorates.
The President must obtain that charmed figure and vault over 50% of the vote in the first count. He cannot afford being shunted to a second count,as the second preference of other opposition candidates (TNA and JVP) who will not fall into his column. Not that easy mate! Winning most or nearly all of the southern seats is likely but that may not be sufficient. You need stacks more in the counting boxes.
Majorities in Badulla are insufficient to overcome the hurdle but Moneragala is a neat launching pad for the President for a take off. The intriguing issue is – whose footsteps will the country follow – Badulla or Moneragala?
It is the margins in the majorities that talk, as there will an orchestrated flow of votes on a singular track from the northern territory. Rajapakse must ensure the polling is heavy in the south to enable large majorities to materialise.
Its not game set and match on the centre court but Uva result does make a call: Rajapakse holds vantage point but may have to serve an ace to win the match.
A telling test to determine the winner of the next Presidential election is to take the lowermost denominator of Mahinda Rajapakse for Uva (Presidential election of 2005 which he won by a streak) where Ranil Wickremasinghe emerged the victor and juxtapose it with the present result (P.C. 2014) on a percentage basis –and gaze into a crystal ball to read the future. On that work out the UPFA is still ahead.
Name -Mahinda Rajapakse on the ballot paper at a Presidential Election gives a turbo boost in rural electorates. That’s a value added factor. The President is undoubtedly more popular than his party with the people.
To up the polling antenna is task one for a President seeking re –election. The floating and absentee voter is temperamental and much revolves around contemporary issues that attract those voters-cost of living being the most worrying factor.Whoever propels issues properly will get off the block to a flying start.
A closer peep at the Badulla town electorate that fell to the UNP (54.0% UNP to 38.4% UPFA)tells much. Urbane and literate, multi- ethnic and multi-religious: such a result should enthuse the greens in Colombo and its immediate suburbs,chic Kandy and venerable Galle.
A reverse swing that developed in 2010 still holds sway with the government catering to a energised middle - income society where good road network lead passengers/goods/vehicles to happier homes in the backwoods. The rural poor are still poor but better cared by this government than the previous dispensation by offering comfort to their tender spots.Urban voters think beyond the reach of the rural. Abolishing Executive Presidency is an oft repeated, outdated record initiated by the politically naïve, directed to the politically sophisticated. To comprehend thorny constitutional issues is too weary for the mind of the simple voter. Abolishing presidency is an issue that tastes sweeter to constitutional geeks than to the common man.
JVP needs to be in the race to save its support base. Otherwise cadres’ will drift outward bound. The common candidate they seek is a man more to the JVP liking. They need a name on the ballot paper. This result makes the common candidate obvious in the name of Ranil Wickremasinghe.
The Opposition has to look at the northern skies for advancement. Northern lights will illuminate the opposition floor; means assuaging a TNA that will tacitly seek a return– if granted, is likely to cause irreparable harm at a succeeding general elections. Result in Uva will baffle the East (TNA collected 192,386 votes as against 212,783 for the government) as the Muslim Congress is caught in a self laid trap; needs a portfolio to while away in a comfort corner: if it desires to leave the UPFA will cause divisions with many takers in the SLMC waiting to sit in the cabinet.
This also helps the President to shepherd his unruly coalition flock into a tighter pen - they would prefer to be gated than set foot loose to meander into an opposition folder and pick thereafter, superannuation benefits.
UPFA requires a friendly budget, angry Diaspora, hostile NGOs and a true–to-form TNA in an unofficial opposition to incense the southerners to deliver the required majority vote for the President.
Can a future President after losing the rural south comprehensively, rule on a conquest obtained on the North/East vote? Unlikely this time, but a North/East with a single party can overrule a South of multi-parties by picking one for favoured treatment and placing it under obligation. Mahinda Rajapakse needs fresh names and fresh faces to invigorate the electorate. His stables look bare.He has a household name in hand to play as a trump. The name card is of Gotabaya Rajapakse.