Electoral calculations | Daily News


Electoral calculations

Transport and Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga may be right when he opined that the UNP could not win the next Presidential Election on its own, meaning it had to forge an alliance with other parties. He was quoted by an English daily as saying that certain people believed that the UNP can win the next Presidential Election single handedly, but this was only an illusion. There certainly are exceptions though.

The first Presidential Election in 1982 was won by J. R. Jayewardene on his own without the formation of any alliances, which was by and large a personal vote for JRJ. Of course the minorities always sided with the UNP candidate, an exception being in 1994 where the Tamils in the North voted en masse for CBK. Had not Prabhakaran enforced a boycott in 2005, present Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would have won that race, which Mahinda Rajapaksa scraped through by a mere 130,000 votes.

Therefore when Ranatunga says the UNP cannot win on its own, implying it has to join with other parties to achieve victory, it should be qualified to read parties of ethnic or religious minorities. It is the votes that are brought in by the likes of the Hakeems, Bathiudeens and Ganesans that will tilt the scales in favour of the UNP. Had it not been for Thonda’s 500,000 estate Tamil votes and Ashraff’s Eastern vote harvest Ranasinghe Premadasa would have lost in 1988.

Neither would have the Common Candidate triumphed in 2015 had it not been for the UNP’s influence on the minority vote. Certainly, it is not parties like the Democratic Front of Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka from which Ranatunga got elected to Parliament in 2010. Ditto for the Jathika Hela Urumaya which backed the Common Candidate but whose contribution to the vote bank was negligible.

The people will also not be fooled by the charade enacted where the Pohottuwa signed agreements with parties that were only name boards. Douglas Devananda who is the Rajapaksa point man in the North, failed to deliver the last time around whose electoral base anyway is only confined to the Mandathivu islands.

Hence, all alliances forged by the Pohottuwa will not be worth the paper they are signed on but a mere attempt to hoodwink the public by demonstrating a non-existent voter strength. It is the vote share of the minority parties which the Rajapaksa camp had scared away by their continuous attacks on the minorities - which reached a peak in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings - that is going to make a difference at the coming election as well.

In the calculation of Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, the UNF candidate was entering the fray with a solid 30% minority vote. In an interview with our weekend publication, The Sunday Observer, Dr. Senaratne said that in the event of Gotabhaya coming forward as the candidate, he can kiss goodbye to all the votes of the minorities. Even if the UNF candidate gets off the block with only 20%, the election was in the bag, he said. He certainly could be right.

When the UNP was routed at last year’s LG poll it still got 30% of the vote. This was at a time that the people were stifled with considerable hardships brought about by increased taxes and the resultant steep rise in the cost of living. Since then much has been done by the Government to redress the situation. Public servants have received a bonanza in the form a Rs. 2,500 monthly allowance, pensions increased and past anomalies redressed. Thousands of graduates have been provided employment, programmes such as Gamperaliya are being received by the villagers with much enthusiasm and peasants are to be granted free possession of lands.

The present euphoria of the Pohottuwites, no doubt, stems from its success at the LG poll, but a close look at the figures would suggest that its candidate is yet far behind the magical 50% + 1 (provided President Sirisena throws his hat into the ring which is a growing possibility) to romp home. The Pohottuwa obtained only 41 percent at that election and at a time the Government was at the nadir of its popularity. According to most analysts this is the optimum which the Pohottuwa candidate can hope to achieve. When one factors in the minority vote that will go en bloc to the UNP candidate, the outcome is certainly not difficult to fathom.

True, the Easter Sunday attacks caused a severe setback to the Government. But one must also recall that the country had gone through similar phases during the height of the war and the public has developed a high threshold of endurance. No doubt, the Opposition will make this a key campaign issue with an eye on the Catholic vote which has always been in favour of the UNP. It is hoped though that sloganeering of a communal nature would not be a feature in the election campaign and this should be inculcated in the minds of all political party leaders by the Ven. Mahanayakes and other religious leaders. 

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