By Siva Sivapragasam
Sri Lankans will wake-up coming Monday morning to select a new set of legislators who will rule them for the next five years.
The choice before them is between a good governance Government and a return to the Rajapakse regime.
It is said that the Southerner from the majority Sinhala community is a fighter even when death stalks him.
Former President and UPFA strongman Mahinda Rajapakse is no exception to this.
In spite of a dizzying defeat only six months ago at the Presidential polls he has bounced back to the political arena to contest a parliamentary election eying the post of Premiership.
Former President Mahinda Rajapakse, also termed now as “warrior king”,is fighting his final battle for political life much against odds. The man who took pride as a President twice and ended a thirty year old war at the expense of nearly forty-thousand deaths is seeking votes on a campaign based on a mixture of a nationalism and a threat to the nation’s security over a fear of the possible resurgence of the Tigers. He is no doubt striking a racist brand of politics to come to power.
But unfortunately he has several hurdles to cross this time to win the elections although large crowds have turned up at his campaign meetings .
With no state machinery at his disposal, mounting criticism of corruption and nepotism during his two-time regime, a defiant President working against him, and a rift in the SLFP, Rajapakse has an uphill task to win a majority of seats. Tamil and Muslim minority voters who handed him a defeat in the presidential election continue to be firm supporters of Wickremesinghe.
Still, the “never say die” Rajapakse is confident of a win and has predicted that the UPFA will come out as victors with 117 seats to form a majority government. One does not know whether his confidence is based on good luck charm of the bracelet he wears or on astrological prediction. The survey conducted by the Centre for Policy Analysis end July shows otherwise and that he is trailing behind Wickremesinghe.
Polls surveys and election results opinions seem to suggest that no party will obtain an absolute majority. Even Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe admitted to the Media that the country was heading towards a national government. The total strength of each of the major parties may go upto a maximum of 90 to 100 seats out of a total of 225. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has declared that a victory for UNP-led United National Front (UNF) at the August 17 parliamentary polls would help consolidate the gains made at what he called the January 08 revolution which ended the Rajapaksa administration.
What then is the after – polls scenario?
In the absence of a clear majority,It is likely that both major parties would woo other minor parties into a coalition to form the government. Of the minor parties, the TNA is likely to get the most number of seats. A sure guess is that the TNA’s preference would be the UNP rather than the UPFA if it decides to support a major party to form the Government. If the UNP wants to form the Government it would try to rope in some members of the UPFA who win the elections by dangling carrots of ministerial posts. The party would also depend on the President to help them in this attempt since he is still the Chairman of the SLFP and maybe able to convince some of them to join a national Government. If this attempt is successful, the UNF led by the UNP will be in a position to form a stable Government with the support of the TNA, some elected members of the UPFA and perhaps conditional support from the JVP which is also expected this time to secure few seats.
Mr.Wickremesinghe already told a TV station (Adaderana) in an interview that the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have agreed to offer their support to the next government in order to achieve ‘good-governance principles’. He remarked that they will support the next government when it comes to establishing democracy and good governance and introducing permanent solutions to the problem of racism. “His (Rajapakse) time is over”, Premier Wickremesinghe told at a campaign rally in Kurunegala, urging voters to send Rajapaksa into retirement.
Can the UPFA go for a coalition Government ?
In the absence of securing a majority of seats, it is unlikely the the UPFA can obtain support from the TNA and some elected members of the JVP. Coalition is a rather remote situation for the UPFA judging by the relationship the TNA had with Rajapakse during his two-time regimes and the ultra-nationalism speeches of UPFA members at election meetings. The JVP has been one of the strong critics of the Rajapakse regime and has even filed papers of corruption about the Rajapakse regime with the Bribery Commissioner’s Department. “Mahinda’s defeat is already written on his forehead.”, said JVP Leader Vijitha Heart at an election meeting this week.
Meanwhile President Sirisena has reiterated his earlier position by sending a letter to Rajapakse that he (Rajapakse) will not be appointed Prime Minister even if the UPFA wins the election.If one is to make an observation of a post-election scenario, the UNP led UNF chances of forming a coalition government are better than that of the UPFA. However, one cannot definitely contemplate the thinking of the voters.
Election trends in Sri Lanka reveal an identity of a Shakespearean drama.
As they say in the Oscar Awards “And the winner is” ……… Anybody’s guess !