A poll with a difference | Daily News


 

A poll with a difference

With exactly one week to go for the August 5 General Election things are bound to heat up on the political front in the remaining days with campaigning set to reach fever pitch.

The pandemic, no doubt, has changed the complexion of this election in several ways, the poll itself having to be postponed twice over due to the looming health threat. Also this is going to be the costliest election (approx Rs.10 b) to be held in this country due to the Election Commission having to conduct the poll within the stipulated health guidelines that necessitate additional arrangements.

Campaigning, for the most part, has been low key, with candidates having to comply with the restrictions but the coming days could see the tempo rising , the limitations not withstanding due to the fierce Manapey battle caused by the extraordinary circumstances the election is being held.

Herein lie the bone of contention. There are complaints by new candidates protesting against certain election laws that place them at great disadvantage. A retired Army officer during a TV talk show on Monday bitterly complained about his inability to get his message across to the voter sufficiently due to the enormous cost of advertising. He claims that some politicians had acquired enormous wealth during their long stints in Parliament and could well afford to spend lavishly on TV advertising while he, a first- timer aspiring to enter Parliament is hamstrung in this regard.

The election laws, he claims, even prohibit the display of his picture and preference number in public places and the public are informed of his preference number only through leaflets distributed by supporters during house to house canvassing, which is also a costly exercise. What chances then for the newcomers, at a time there is huge public outcry for educated and cultured individuals to enter Parliament ?

His grievance is understandable. The present Election laws were enacted when polls were held under the first the past post system where the candidates had to concentrate only on the home electorate. However with the advent of PR, a candidate has to concentrate on an entire electoral district. How can new candidates cover such vast ground ? Some electorates had been deprived of a sitting MP for decades which is an injustice on the electors, and, in a way, a negation of their franchise.

Candidates wanting in funds will continue to remain also rans if the system is allowed to continue since only those well-heeled will get elected. This time too there is the very real likelihood that we are going to see same composition in Parliament as the one before if we are to take such complaints to their logical end. As many as 198 members of the 225 in the last Parliament have gained nominations which also raises a question mark if the public are going to be entertained by the same antics of our honourable MPs this time around too.

However, there are hopes on the National List which hopefully will not be abused this time around by all parties by accommodating defeated candidates through this means.

It is high time that the present Elections laws tailored to suit the PR system are amended. If not the vicious cycle is bound to continue. Alternatively we could revert to the old system where justice will be done to the candidate as well as the electors. As it is, as already mentioned, certain electorates are rendered orphans for want of a people’s representative. It was the wish of a former leader that at least one educated individual /professional gets elected from each of the 25 electoral districts at the next General Election. It appears that this is going to be a dashed hope. A few parties have published a list of highly qualified professionals in newspaper adverts as their National List nominees. But chances are that only a few among them will gain entry to Parliament. All the major parties should use the National List to make Parliament a more professional assembly.

A great relief

The decision taken by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to impose a moratorium on the lease payment for school vans for a further six months will be most welcomed by school van operators who were among the worst hit by the Coronavirus Pandemic with schools having been closed for several months. They are only now coming out of hibernation with the phased out reopening of schools after a lengthy four month period during which time needless to say, they had hit a nadir, financially speaking. They will still have to suffer financial loss due to the restrictions imposed on the numbers that can be transported in keeping with social distancing rules. Hence, any concessions are bound to be grabbed by them with both hands. We hope that the Government will extend such concessions to other affected segments as well.


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