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Election fever to grip country after March

22 Feb 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

  • The JVP-led National People’s Power (NPP) is engaging grassroots level individuals and organizations in view of the elections
  • The NPP is now not prepared to accommodate any other political party or individual
  • Even the National Movement for Social Justice has initiated the discussion on the need to scrap Executive Presidency

The country is abuzz with election fever, despite the presidential election, constitutionally scheduled for this year, not yet being 
officially declared.The JVP-led National People’s Power (NPP) is engaging grassroots level individuals and organizations in view of the elections. The early engagement is aimed at tailoring their electoral message effectively.  The party is channeling its energy into capitalising on the widespread dissatisfaction with traditional parties. It is also projecting its latest Indian visit, coupled with high profile enjoyments with top Indian leaders including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar, as an international recognition of its rise to the zenith of Sri Lankan politics after the Aragalaya (protests) that forced former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa out of office in 2022.

The NPP, or the JVP for that matter, maintains cohesion despite ideological clashes between its traditional members and newcomers.    
Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Leader Sajith Premadasa and President Ranil Wickremesinghe are the two other prospective candidates. The parties, groups and organizations that intend to support them have launched into action ahead of the elections. The formations of political alliances are in different stages at the moment and key among them is the revival of People’s Alliance (PA) under its chair symbol, reminiscent of the political transformation in 1994 when former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was elected to office as the President ending the 17-year rule of the United National Party (UNP). She contested that election under the PA’s chair symbol.
Although Kumaratunga doesn’t wield electoral influence any longer, she is known for her skills in carrying out political machinations and doing so behind the scenes. She played a pivotal role in engineering the defection of former President Maithripala Sirisena from the then ruling side in 2014, a political exercise that ended  the ten-year Mahinda Rajapaksa rule which was considered invincible up until then.     

The PA is an alliance to be co-led by her and Sirisena who is also the leader of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).  The political group, led by Kurunegala district MP Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and organised by MP Nimal Lanza, is likely to throw its weight behind the new alliance. Then, it becomes obvious that it is nothing, but an alliance being formed to boost the candidacy 
of President Wickremesinghe.
The group is a faction that broke ranks with Sri Lanka  Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and started identifying itself with the President right from the beginning. The new alliance, which is still in its formative stage, has not declared formally what it will do at the presidential election. Yet, one cannot believe that it will support anyone other than the President. The NPP is now not prepared to accommodate any other political party or individual. The party has officially declared its stance on new additions.
The PA is also not accepting the SJB leadership. Then, it becomes clear that the President will be the preferred choice for them in view of the election. Ahead of the formation of the alliance, Sirisena also visited the United States.
However, the President will launch into swift action in view of the elections in March only. It is going to be a crucial month for the country under the President’s leadership. The government anticipates the possible signing of agreement with the creditors on debt restructuring next month along with some form of understanding with private bond holders. If that happens as expected, it will be a momentous occasion since the country will no longer be called bankrupt in the international arena afterwards. Once resurrected from bankruptcy, the country’s credit rating will improve.
The President and his camp see it as a plank on which the presidential election campaign can be launched. Alongside, the government is planning to announce some relief measures for people already suffering from the unprecedented cost of living and denial of economic opportunities in the midst of economic crisis. The proposed electricity tariff reduction is also one of them.
If debt restructuring is achieved with the help of key countries such as India, the United States, China, Japan, France and  the United Kingdom, only the President and his government can stake a claim for it. 
Still, the President has to count on the SLPP as the key party to back him at the elections. His electoral base will be that of the SLPP led by Mahinda Rajapaksa.  Rajapaksa will not harbour any political ambition for himself in the future due to age not being on his side. Instead, he is so concerned about the future of his son, Hambantota district MP Namal Rajapaksa, who is aspiring to be the leader of the party and the country one day.  Currently, Namal Rajapaksa appears to have started his political campaign with the primary aim of projecting himself as the next leader.  He is traversing across the country paying homage to leading Buddhist monks in addition to addressing the grassroots organizations of the party.  
In case the SLPP backs the President at the presidential elections, it will not be done without a favour in mind. It will be an electoral arrangement that will secure the future of 
young Rajapaksa.

In politics, nothing is impossible. There are talks in progress on the need to scrap the Executive Presidency. There is fear whether the government will try to postpone the Presidential Elections in the guise of enacting constitutional amendments to abolish Executive Presidency.   As things stand at the moment, it is highly unlikely that the elections can be postponed whatsoever because public opinion is building against such a move.  
Even the National Movement for Social Justice spearheaded by former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has initiated the discussion on the need to scrap Executive Presidency. Yet, it is against any move to postpone the elections under the pretext of it.