The true worth of alliances | Daily News


The true worth of alliances

It is reported that the recently formed Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna aka. Pohottuwa and the Joint Opposition (JO) are to enter into an electoral agreement before the upcoming Presidential Election. The agreement is to be signed on Friday (26th) before Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaka. Close observers of the current political scene, no doubt, would be non-plussed and question the need of a special agreement since the Pohottuwa and the JO are one and the same and differs only in name. All the 60 odd MPs representing the JO led by Rajapaksa campaigned for the Pohottuwa at the LG polls whose candidates were none other than JO grassroots activists. In other words, the agreement will amount the breakaway faction of the UPFA, represented by the JO, coalescing with its own self in reaching accord with its own alliance partners in Parliament such as Dinesh Gunawardena's MEP, Tissa Vitarana's LSSP, Weerawansa's National Freedom Front (NFF), Gammanpila's Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, and Chandrasiri Gajadheera's Communist Party (CP).

If the proposed grand alliance is to be formed, its strength will be measured only by its success in roping in parties that are not already allies of the JO/Pohottuwa. But all these parties backed Mahinda Rajapaksa at the last Presidential Election. In that sense it would not make any difference this time too with the same parties supporting a candidate nominated by Rajapaksa. Besides, an alliance is generally formed with a view of garnering the additional votes that will be brought in by the parties in that alliance. In that sense too there won't be a difference to the final outcome with same partners offering the same numbers as before. All the partners of the JO had been with Rajapaksa from the very outset such as the MEP, CP, LSSP, and NLSSP while Weerawansa formed his NFF only as an afterthought as a sort of pressure group for the express purpose of ensuring the Government does not stray from its policies. But few were fooled by this claim as the NFF leader catered to every whim of Rajapaksa and remained mum when the Hambantota port was sold to China.

The news report also states that discussions are being held with 29 political parties and agreements are to be signed with 15 of these, discussions to continue with the remainder, to be concluded before the Pohottuwa convention on August 11 on which date the Presidential candidate is believed to be announced. What voter strength do these parties command that will tilt the scales for the Pohottuwa candidate, whoever he/she may be, is anyone's guess. In jest it is often said that the membership of these parties could be bundled into a trishaw (three wheeler parties) and not without reason. True the LSSP (and CP) was a force to reckon with at one time. But the Left never recovered after being swept out of the electoral map in the avalanche of 1977, so much so, they are today confined mere name-boards. The Hela Urumaya too showed promise at the 2004 General Election, sending a dozen or so Bikkhus to Parliament. But these were largely middle-class UNP votes which went back to the Greens and Blues at subsequent elections.

True, the mob oratory of Wimal Weerawansa could bring some votes to the Pohottuwa candidate, who, in any event, is bound to campaign on a nationalist platform and these votes will come the candidate's way despite Weerawansa. Only the MEP leader can claim to bring in a vote share of some significance but then again these are votes that will anyway accrue to the Pohottuwa candidate who will bellow nationalist rhetoric.

In contrast, the UNP has been the political party to always benefit from the votes of its alliance partners - predominantly the minority political parties. Had it not been for Thondaman senior's 500,000 vote share, Premadasa would have not won the 1988 Presidential Election. Ditto for Ashraff who, however, in 1994, shifted loyalties and offered his party's (SLMC) votes to Chandrika which was to prove decisive. Similarly the UNP/ (UNF candidate is bound to benefit this time around too, buttressed by the nationalist tempo of the Pohottuwa candidate. The TNA has already, more than hinted, at where its sympathies lay while the unfair targeting of Muslims by the Pohottuwites may compel them to vote as a community for the UNF candidate.

Hence, the JO/Pohottuwa bid to forge an electoral alliances with 29 political parties, no doubt, will be seen by many purely as a ploy to demonstrate numbers rather than a genuine attempt to swell the vote share of its candidate at the upcoming Presidential election. It is reported that Arun Thambimuttu, a known Rajapaksa loyalist, had already formed a new political party in the North, no doubt, to align it with rest of the 29 partners once the election is declared, in yet another bid by the Pohottuwites to throw dust in the eyes of the voters.

Meanwhile, Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya predicts a voter turnout of less than 60% this time around. True, only 55% voted at the1988 Presidential Election (due to the JVP terror campaign). But voter disgust with politicians could see a similar scenario, come December. 

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