@

 
   
   
   
   
   
HOME
NEWS  
NEWS FEATURES  
INTERVIEWS  
POLITICAL COLUMN  
THIS IS MY NATION  
MILITARY MATTERS  
EDITORIAL  
SPORTS  
CARTOON  
BUSINESS  
EYE - FEATURES  
LETTERS  
EVENTS  
SOUL - YOUTH MAG  
KIDS - NATION  
ENTERTAINMENT  
NATION WORLD  
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

 

 

This is my Nation


Polls Unlimited

The strategy of piecemeal elections received an unexpected boost with the crushing of the LTTE, which led to an unprecedented surge in popularity for President Mahinda Rajapaksa. These piecemeal polls, however, has also led to speculation as to what the ruling party’s future strategy will be with regard to elections. The first major poll due is the general election, which has to be called by April 2010. However, there is Constitutional provision for President Rajapaksa to call for a presidential poll after November this year, which would effectively mean a presidential election early next year. It appears that the current thinking is to opt for a presidential poll first

When these words are being read, the results of the Uva provincial council (PC) election and the local government elections in Jaffna and Vavuniya would be trickling in. While we make no attempt to comment on the outcome, it would be yet relevant to deliberate on the near political future of the country in the context of the spate of elections high on the agenda of national events.

Yesterday’s polls are a continuation of a strategy adopted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his ruling coalition, the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) of wresting control of the country’s provincial administrations, one or two at a time. This allows the ruling party to concentrate all its resources in a particular region at a given time, a tactic that the combined opposition has had difficulty in coping with until now.

The two remaining PCs in the country are the geographically diametrically opposite Northern PC and the Southern PC. The latter has already been dissolved and elections would be held in due course. It is a fair bet to predict that the Northern PC elections will follow.

This strategy of piecemeal elections received an unexpected boost with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) being crushed militarily in May. That event led to an unprecedented surge in popularity for President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the gloss of which will rub off to some extent on the UPFA too.

This has, however, also led to speculation as to what the ruling party’s future strategy will be with regard to elections. The first major poll due is the general election, which has to be called by April 2010. However, there is Constitutional provision for President Rajapaksa to call for a presidential poll after November this year, which would effectively mean a presidential election early next year.

It appears that the current thinking is to opt for a presidential poll first. This is based on several factors, not least of which are the difficulties the ruling UPFA would be saddled with in facing a general election.
Strange as though it may seem, the UPFA’s preparations for a general election would have to be more complex than that of the major opposition party, the United National Party (UNP). This is because the UPFA is now a composite alliance of almost all the hues of the political spectrum of this country. As such, formulating nomination lists in each electoral district would present a plethora of headaches for the party hierarchy.

A clear example of this would be what the UPFA would have to do to accommodate the UNP dissidents who, along with Karu Jayasuriya, crossed over to lend support to the President. Karu Jayasuriya of course later opted to return to his former party. The President, sensing the unease of these UNP dissidents, has appointed most of them as SLFP organisers, thereby ensuring nomination for them in a subsequent general election, but this would undoubtedly trigger a series of turf wars in the respective electorates, which would ignite in the event of a poll.

Such divisions could be consigned to the backburner if a presidential poll is held first. All ministers and parliamentarians only too eager to score brownie points from the President, would contribute wholeheartedly to a presidential election where President Rajapaksa would obviously have a head start, not only as the incumbent in office, but also the proud claimant of the mantle of saviour of the nation from the scourge of terrorism.

The thinking in the corridors of power is that, if President Rajapaksa were to win the election- and by a convincing margin at that -the snowball effect would take over and that the President, armed with a fresh mandate from the people, would command enough authority over the ruling party to put an end to intra-party bickering. This would ensure an easier passage for the UPFA at a subsequent a general election.

This, though, is subject to a rider. Since general elections have to be called by April 2010, when the six-year life of the current Parliament expires, it would mean that presidential elections would have to effectively be held between January and April- and that would mean a very tight schedule of elections indeed.

If that is a problem of sorts for the ruling party, a thought must be spared for the UNP. The premier opposition party is still grappling with a simmering leadership tussle, wondering whether to stick to its revered ‘elephant’ symbol and debating whether to go it alone or forge an alliance with like-minded parties. Winning elections seem a distant prospect indeed under these trying circumstances.

In the event of a presidential poll, the issue of who the main opposition candidate would also resurface. It is now an open secret that some in the party are publicly advocating that party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe contest, only because they hope it will provide the UNP leader some rope to commit political suicide with.

Others contend that the result of the poll would be a foregone conclusion, no matter who the candidate is. In the circumstances, they opine that getting rid of Wickremesinghe as party leader would prove a tough ask indeed- and for that, the party would still have to follow the same procedure they are finding it difficult to enforce now.
At first glance then, the odds are stacked in favour of the ruling UPFA at present. Politics though is a game of fickle fortunes, and that is what the UNP would want it to be over the next few months.

****