Where “political party” means a “gang of dealers” and “power is addictive”
by Kusal Perera
( February 14, 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) This Local Government election is unique in that this is the only LG election in history to decide the contours of central government power. Unique in that a political party leader as president who was completely discarded as irrelevant in politics with only 13.3 per cent votes polled, tells the other partner in the “Unity” government that polled 32.6 per cent votes, their PM has to now step down. And that seems to hold political logic too with a totally new political party sweeping the elections led by former President Rajapaksa whose image is as strong as a popular “brand name” easily marketable across the whole of Southern Sinhala society.
All elections, carry with them numerous post-election analyses using numbers to defend one’s own thinking and political affiliations. Despite President’s thinking that there needs to be serious changes in government to continue, the main partner in this “Unity” government the UNP is now working out analyses to justify continuing in power. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Finance and Media, generally considered the most trustworthy of all politicians in this government has issued a statement to claim “The UNP has a solemn duty not just to the 46 per cent of the electorate who voted for us (the UNP) and President Sirisena’s SLFP (includes UPFA too) last Saturday, but to the entire resounding majority of our citizens, all 6.1 million of them (55.3%) who marched to the polls last Saturday and voted against a return to Rajapaksa rule.” Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne too came up with similar numbers, the day after the LG election results recorded a political Tsunami that left the Yahapalana government in debris.
The writing of a coming political Tsunami was glaring big on the wall. Here’s what I wrote in my blog after reading it, 02 days before elections.
“With Rajapaksa assumed to have another comeback, President Sirisena will have a harder time ahead than his ‘advisors’ had calculated.”
“The ITAK leadership in TNA will therefore find themselves in troubled and deep in hot waters without any acceptable excuse for piggybacking the UNP for 03 long and unproductive years.”
“In brief, the Unity government after the LG elections will be left as fragile as no other coalition government had ever been in mid term before. Election campaigning by President Sirisena had already laid the ground for the political crises ahead despite how the people would vote on Saturday. What the EC would read out as official results will only add salt to the bitter pickle on the boil.”
- It is stupid for a politician like Samaraweera who generally talks sense to argue that voters behaved in the same “anti-Rajapaksa” manner this election too after 03 years of miserable rule by “yahapalanaya”.
- Their “Rajapaksa phobia” proved the Yahapalana government had no answers, no solutions to any of the issues they raised against Rajapaksa; from economic to democratic to mega corruption.
- It is not only the Rajapaksa led SLPP which polled 44.7 per cent that was hard line anti UNP. Even the Sirisena led UPFA’s 8.9 percent and his SLFP’s 4.4 per cent plus the JVP’s 6.2 per cent were all “anti UNP”.
- In any democratic country where political parties are also democratic, the most important news catching headlines would be changes discussed at “Special Conventions” of political parties. It is such special conventions of party members who decide their next leader. It is they who decide the “political line” of the party. That was how the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) decided their coalition with the SLFP in 1964 June.
- Here in SL, political decisions under party labels are taken by the leader with his own carefully selected group of henchmen amidst scheming and manipulations. Most henchmen are either from the “Filthy Rich” in this neoliberal economy or directly in business with them.
Calculations made by this Unity government “apologists” cannot hide the fact that in Sinhala South, the social psyche that had grown over the past 03 years does not accept this “Unity” government anymore. Even the numbers the yahapalana ‘apologists’ cluster together don’t carry the logic they blurt out.
One argument they hold on to is that Rajapaksa had failed to maintain the 5.8 million he mustered at the 2015 January presidential election. That his percentage vote of 47.6 at the 2015 January presidential poll had decreased to 44.7 per cent. One may then ask Samaraweera where the 62 lakhs who voted for Common Candidate Sirisena in that same presidential election are now. All the votes that Samaraweera had collected from so many different places still adds to 61 lakhs only.
It is more prudent to take numbers from the 2015 August parliamentary election, as the alliances and parties that ran for election then, seem almost the same as this LG election, 02 years and 06 months later. The UNP, JVP, TNA and also the SLFP/UPFA vote blocs can then be compared without any of the numerical gimmicks that Samaraweera is resorting to. Politics of the UNP platform then and now was also the same. They promised more investment with plenty employment and spoke about IT and a modern ‘Sri Lanka’ then and now. What was the outcome? At the 2015 August parliamentary elections UNP polled 5.1 million that was 45.7 per cent of the total polled. This February at the LG elections 13.1 per cent of those voters left the UNP and voted against the UNP leaving the UNP with only 32.6 per cent polled. How will Samaraweera explain this massive shift against the UNP?
Samaraweera and all “Yahapalana” apologists should face the truth that clustering numbers to keep highlighting a “Rajapaksa phobia” was and is their major blunder. Their “Rajapaksa phobia” proved the Yahapalana government had no answers, no solutions to any of the issues they raised against Rajapaksa; from economic to democratic to mega corruption. Thus it is not only the UNP that was heavily voted down, but it’s partner President Sirisena and his SLFP/UPFA too.
Technically, if people who voted SLFP/UPFA to elect 95 MPs in August 2015 stayed with the SLFP/UPFA, then President Sirisena should have polled 42.3 percent with 4.7 million votes. But President Sirisena could only retain a meagre 13.3 percent of that vote. That 42.3 percent in August 2015 was mustered by Rajapaksa for the SLFP/UPFA while Sirisena as President played the most sinister role of defaming Rajapaksa during the election campaign. Thus 29 percent of those voters opted to go with Rajapaksa and voted SLPP. Rajapaksa also gained from the 13.1 per cent voters who deserted the UNP in topping up the 29 per cent from SLFP/UPFA. Thus 42.1 per cent of the 44.7 per cent the SLPP totalled came from the SLFP/UPFA and the UNP.
It is stupid for a politician like Samaraweera who generally talks sense to argue that voters behaved in the same “anti Rajapaksa” manner this election too after 03 years of miserable rule by “yahapalanaya”. Forces that came together in poling 6.2 million for Common Candidate Sirisena to be elected president in 2015 January, had parted ways after 08 months when the parliamentary elections were held and contested against each other. That 2015 August re alignment of forces was further polarised at this LG election with the JVP, the Muslim vote in most districts and the SLFP in all its tattered forms clearly going “anti UNP” with President Sirisena being the loudest. Every single vote President Sirisena begged and bagged, was a vote against the UNP. The UPFA/SLFP councillors who were elected on that anti UNP vote at local level, cannot sit with the UNP. They ca n only opt to join with Rajapaksa to oust the UNP where the UNP failed to win an absolute majority.
Thus it is not only the Rajapaksa led SLPP which polled 44.7 per cent that was hard line anti UNP. Even the Sirisena led UPFA’s 8.9 per cent and his SLFP’s 4.4 per cent plus the JVP’s 6.2 per cent were all “anti UNP”. This totals to a massive 64.2 per cent votes among Sinhala South against the UNP. That’s after leaving out the Muslim and Tamil vote which went against the UNP in constituencies they contested against each other. If that number is added, the anti UNP vote could go well above 65 per cent.
In such a catastrophic situation in any democratic country where political parties are also democratic, the most important news catching headlines would be changes discussed at “Special Conventions” of political parties. It is such special conventions of party members who decide their next leader. It is they who decide the “political line” of the party. That was how the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) decided their coalition with the SLFP in 1964 June. The whole party discussed 03 different “Resolutions” at local party branches and elected their “delegates” for the special conference. At the special delegates’ conference it was Dr. N. M. Perera led group that won with their resolution to join the SLFP government with ministries. That LSSP is long dead and none of the political parties here in SL are democratic. Political parties today don’t have an actual membership. Here in SL, political decisions under party labels are taken by the leader with his own carefully selected group of henchmen amidst scheming and manipulations. Most henchmen are either from the “Filthy Rich” in this neo liberal economy or directly in business with them. Therefore decisions taken in the name of the “people” with promises for democratic reforms and justice to all, never get translated into action. If pressured to implement, they are scuttled and left dormant in Statute books.
Bottom line is, decisions that would actually be made effective are those for the benefit of the “filthy rich” and all attempts therefore in ensuring a government of their “choice” is what happens in these neo liberal economies. “People” are their to endorse them and give them legitimacy. Same is happening now and nothing else. This parliament has no other purpose as well.