It’s all systems go | Daily News


It’s all systems go

The country will go for a General Election on April 25 after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa using his Constitutional prerogative dissolved Parliament by Gazette notification. President Rajapaksa of course could have held back until August when the duration of the present Parliament would have run its course under normal circumstances. But the need to strengthen the Government may have hastened the President’s hand in dissolving Parliament at the first available opportunity.

This will be the first Parliamentary election that will be held under an independent Elections Commission set up under the 19th Amendment. With the Police too functioning under an autonomous body, the political heat apart, by and large, a free and fair election could be expected with no room for manipulation or abuse of power by any party as in the past.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last time around led by example in conducting an election campaign free of polythene and he has already enjoined supporters that on no account should his photographs or images be displayed in public places. The preferential vote being an integral part in a General Election it will be interesting to see how the candidates are going to emulate the President.

To many observers, the campaign had already hit the streets, with all leading contenders making their overtures to the voter. The Government of course is at a distinct advantage in this respect carrying with it the mass goodwill it received at the Presidential election held barely four months ago where President Gotabaya Rajapaksa emerged the convincing victor and also due to the many relief measures offered to the public by way of tax reductions and the offer of sweeping employment opportunities.

Besides election day falls just four days after the first anniversary of the horrendous Easter Sunday carnage that will be a reminder to the public of the gross negligence of national security by the then leaders who are once again aspiring for power. There is also the conundrum of two leaders at the levers of power as witnessed during the Yahapalanaya days when nothing got done and where all round paralysis was the norm. The public would certainly not want to revisit those days when a President from one party and the Prime Minister from another were at loggerheads with each other leaving governance in abeyance to the great detriment of the country.

There of course will be other issues at the elections, chief of which is the feasibility of continuing with the 19th Amendment, which the Government sees as a huge impediment in implementing the President’s mandate received last November. The Government sees this as a huge restraint on the President and wants it amended for which it is asking the electorate for a two thirds majority. The President is campaigning for the abolition of 19A and has received the backing of an influential section of the Mahga Sangha towards this end. Largely, given that the voice of the Sangha carried the day for the President at the Presidential election, which has been acknowledged by the President himself, there can be little doubt that this will have the same effect this time around too (in obtaining the coveted two thirds majority for the Government).

There would be a good majority of the country’s voting population who will be yearning for a different Parliament this time around where their representatives will conduct themselves with dignity and decorum, and, what is more, echo the voice of the people and truly represent their interests. No doubt, there will be a vast multitude of voters who would seriously take to heart the loud refrain heard from all round for a need to cleanse the August assembly of the undesirable elements who desecrated its sanctum with impunity, and vote for a clean break with the past. They would also certainly give serious thought to the call for voting in educated, cultured persons with standing in society and those with sound education and scholarly attainments.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his maiden address to Parliament bemoaned the decline in Parliamentary standards and the conduct of present day MPs. The President reminded the House of the early post colonial decades when the country’s Legislature was the epitome of dignity and decorum, and quality in debate. No doubt, these sentiments of the President are bound to echo in the minds of the voters.

Of course, the voters can entertain hopes that the April 25 election will see a departure from the old practices in the choice of members of Parliament and that this time around only true representatives of the people and not back door entrants will be accommodated.

This is after the assurance given by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to a group of civil society activists last week that no defeated candidate will be entertained on the SLPP National List this time around. Hopefully other major parties too would follow suit. For now though, it’s all systems go for the General Election.

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