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Presidential elections and the Gota factor

15 August 2019 01:48 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Now Mahinda promotes his brother Gotabaya for the presidency Pix AFP 

There is a positive vibe generated in the political scene after the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) announced former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the party’s presidential candidate. 

There is a large percentage of people who love Gotabaya and want him to succeed in politics, but at the same time there are those who have their reservations about a person who is entangled in many legal battles and loves to rule with an iron first. Gotabaya might not be the perfect candidate, but he could be considered as a better alternative to the present set of lawmakers who are also vying to be the presidential candidates from their respective parties. 

The Pohottuwa party has been bold in naming its candidate ahead of the others. Political analysts say that the former military man got the nod because of the country’s fragile defence system. In this sense this choice can be justified. But then again this is a nation which has a history of governments carrying out extra-judicial killings. And the people know so well that both the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP) are accused of this type of crime and they don’t wish to return to such a past. 

Right now Gotabaya is hogging the limelight because no other party has named its election candidate. The mistake others are doing is that they all want to beat Gotabaya. On the other hand Gotabaya has a different strategy; more than talking about beating anyone he wants to develop the country and enhance security. It seems like other political parties, who have not named their election candidates, have got their priorities mixed up. 

  • The Pohottuwa party has been bold in naming its candidate ahead of the others
  • The worst thing to do now is for the UNP to go about critisising Gotabaya
  • If Gotabaya is to generate votes he must know that people vote for a candidate out of the love for him

The biggest challenge to the Pohottuwa party can come from the UNP. This is because of its liberal thinking and the freedom offered to the minorities to practise their religions and see their respective cultures flourish. In this aspect the Muslim votes are so vital and an open minded Wickremesinghe would be the ideal person to canvass for such votes. This is because the premier is a person who doesn’t discriminate against people using religion. But unfortunately the UNP is split on whether to have Wickremesinghe or Sajith Premadasa as the party’s presidential candidate. 

The worst thing to do now is for the UNP to go about critisising Gotabaya. Even bad publicity for Gotabaya would be turned into good publicity by the Pohottuwa party’s propaganda arm. We know that though Gotabaya is in the limelight, his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa will have the remote control of the SLPP as its leader. But if Sajith receives nomination he would have a free hand as to do the best changes within the UNP. This fact is reinforced by the knowledge within the Green party where most members want a change in the party leadership and how this party is engaging in politics right now.  

In this backdrop Gotabaya could be a guided figure and if the UNP forwards a candidate other than Wickremesinghe, that person would be an individual who is able to think for himself. 

When we review the past 14 years of Sri Lankan politics we can talk much about Mahinda Rajapaksa. From head of state he was thrown out of power, but bounced back as Opposition Leader. Now he promotes his brother Gotabaya for the presidency while eyeing the post of premier. Interestingly the 19th Amendment which was brought by the Yahapalana regime to clip the wings of Mahinda can now be used by him to balance power, but only if he ends up as the future prime minister.  This is because the 19th takes away some of the powers of the Executive President and strengthens the power of the parliament. 

SLFP annoyed

Mahinda as prime minister is an equally exciting prospect as Gotabaya becoming president. Whatever talk that the Rajapaksa clan is united has been largely possible because of the presence of former president in politics, despite him losing power and languishing at Madamulana for some time without knowing his political future. 

The ‘Gotabaya wave’ that’s created looks like obtaining 50% of the votes needed to bring the SLPP into power. Still it seems a close contest and a hectic battle is looked forward to because all leading political parties are planning to form alliances and not ‘go it alone this time’. In this context something that President Maithripala Sirisena has said, and reported in a leading Sinhala weekend newspaper, is worth mentioning. Sirisena has said if the opposition that can get 50% of the votes can’t be underestimated then whoever who can generate another 1% of the votes also can’t be underestimated. He had said that that one percent can be raised by the SLFP. 

The SLFP is a little hurt that they were not informed about the Pohottuwa party deciding on Gotabaya as the presidential candidate of the SLPP. The SLFP is one of the main parties that was hoping to form an alliance with the SLPP. But that opportunity doesn’t seem to exist from an SLFP perspective due to the naming of this election candidate. 

On the other hand Gotabaya has a different strategy; more than talking about beating anyone he wants to develop the country and enhance security

The SLFP being annoyed at this stage doesn’t serve well for the SLPP. This is because of the unpredictability of President Sirisena. The current president sees a disgruntled JVP and a frustrated TNA which can be roped in for election work. The TNA wants a new constitution and so does the JVP. So these are two likeminded parties watching from the sidelines all what’s taking place in this pre-election build up. All it takes is a able coordinator to bring these parties together. 

The JVP this time boasts of forming a national people’s front which will also have the support of 28 organisations. The Red party also promises to develop the economy and enhance the country’s security in its election promises. The JVP led alliance is expected to announce its election candidate this Sunday (August 18). 

Despite the date for the presidential elections not declared political parties are hellbent on canvasing for votes. Gotabaya was the first to start the campaign with his Eliya and Viyath Maga programmes. He was also the first to get nominated as a party candidate for the much looked forward to presidential elections. 

Like the JVP, Gotabaya too has a past which can drive fear into voters. People still remember the white van abductions, an accusation which Gotabaya refutes. Gotabaya only takes credit for crushing the ruthless tiger rebels and beautifying Colombo. 

After the war Gotabaya was involved in many construction projects. He also grew flowers and constructed walking paths in and around Colombo. He has probably seen many a construction worker atop poles engaging in work. Such workers decide to wear helmets for two reasons; one is because if they don’t their bosses would fire them and the other reason is because they want to acknowledge the love and affection extended towards the worker in terms of safety by the institute which employs them. 

If Gotabaya is to generate votes he must know that people vote for a candidate out of the love for him, not because they fear him!

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