Winners And Losers At The Polls

The general election to elect members to the country’s eighth parliament concluded last week after a campaign period that lasted a little over 45 days.

Setting the stage for an entirely different political framework, this election can be identified as one of the most competitive as well as decisive elections witnessed by the country. However, 59 former legislators could not make their way back to the House and a majority of them were from the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). At the polls, 196 were able to secure a seat in parliament.

When analyzing the entire list of candidates who contested at the polls, a grand total of 5,955 failed to make it to parliament.

Like William Estow, the four-time Prime Minister in Great Britain, Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe has secured the most preferences at the election and has made history in world politics by becoming the second to be sworn in as a prime minister on four occasions.

His main opponent, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who contested for the general election from the Kurunegala District under the UPFA, was able to secure the most preferences in that district. Expressing his views regarding his victory, Rajapaksa has said he would continue to serve the people as an MP as it was obtained amidst many challenges.

The August 17th election, which is considered as the most peaceful and fair election in Sri Lanka’s recent political history, marked a voter turnout of over 70%, as many of those who had not exercised their vote for a long time had decided to cast their vote in this election. Facts such as higher voter turnout, retaining its vote base and securing new votes were among the key elements in the UNP success in the polls.  When analyzing how the preferences have been distributed, some interesting facts have come to light. Floating votes, personal benefits and party divisions are some major factors that come into play when preferences are cast.

However, the biggest challenge in the preferential votes race was seen in the Colombo District. Several notable political figures, who were believed to have had a sure shot, were defeated from the preference fight while some new faces have safely made it in.  As the door was shut for several political veterans in Colombo, a similar fate had befallen upon some other notable politicians in other districts as well. Especially, the rejection of certain parties such as the Sinhala Buddhist extremist Bodu Jana Peramuna (BJP), is also a noteworthy fact in this election.

Further, the Democratic Party’s failure to secure at least one seat has posed a question about the party’s future role in politics.

Nepotism has also made its way into parliament through the elections with four ‘Father-Son’ combinations and eight ‘Siblings’ entering legislature as MPs. However, the anticipation at this election was to send good, clean, fair and intelligent political leaders to parliament. Nevertheless, the people have now made their choice.

Following are some comments by several new faces in parliament as well as some unfortunate former MPs regarding their experiences in the campaign run:

 

Rohana Dissanayake (former UPFA MP Matale)

There has been a looting of preferences. I should have received the second place in the list. I have already lodged a complaint with the Elections Commissioner on this matter. And if such a thing has not happened, I am ready to bear all the costs incurred in holding such an inquiry.

Chathura Senaratne (UNP MP Gampaha)

This is a massive victory. The country needed good governance. And we are ready to fulfill that dream of the people with an entirely new policy that would add change for the change. This mandate given by the voters would lie in the deepest place in my heart. And I promise them to commit my entire life to become their strength. This was a miracle brought in within four weeks. I did not even have an election office. And I would do everything to fulfill my responsibility towards the people in this country including Gampaha district.

S.M. Marikkar

 (UNP MP Colombo)

Happy about the victory. I have clearly understood my responsibilities. And as a young MP, I would commit myself in fulfilling them. Instead of changing parties, I would stand against corruption and theft. And I believe I have the backbone for that. For a long time, this country was going downhill in socio-economic aspects. And the people have realised that only Ranil Wickremesinghe could turn the table. This time a new generation has joined hands with the UNP to build this country. And as their representative I am ready to commit myself with a plan to meet the challenges. In my agenda, I would first focus on issues such as the Kolonnawa land fill, eradication of the narcotic problem and rebuilding the education sector. Further, I would stand against all the fraud and corruption that was and is happening throughout the country.

Joseph Michael Perera (UNP MP Gampaha)

I cannot make any comment at this moment. I have some issues to resolve first. After that I would be able to give a correct answer for the problem.

Rosy Senanakaye (Former UNP MP Colombo)

A UNP victory and to install a UNP-led government was my priority and I extended all my efforts to make it happen and I am overjoyed that it did happen. This is another reason why I was unable to fully focus on my campaign, while most of my colleagues were focusing on their personal campaign and ensure their victory above all else. However, my party won and I am really happy about that. I respect the people’s verdict. After all this is what politics means. Having to confine my campaign within the Colombo West electorate was one of the reasons to obtain only 65,320 preferential votes. It was difficult to widen the scope of my campaign as my fellow candidates were not too happy when I visited other electorates in the Colombo district to carry out my election campaign. But the UNP’s election victory is as good as if I myself had won and therefore, I have no regrets

Lohan Ratwatte (UPFA Kandy)

I am happy about my victory. I hope to execute my duties as an MP by acting in a fair manner. I will never leave the party. And I would not engage in private dealings with other parties. I would try my best to do my job satisfactorily.

D. V. Chanaka

(UPFA Hambantota)

I would cherish this mandate given to me by the people of Hambantota as my life. This is our victory. My father is a provincial councilor. And I would follow in his footsteps to serve this country.

C. J. C. Alawathuwala

(UNP Kurunegala)

This election was conducted within a fair legal structure. The usual acts of deceiving the people were not seen in this election. I think the main reason for this is the conduct of the President and the Prime Minister. The trust the people had on us on January 08 was once again depicted in this election. According to my opinion, the people have chosen well in voting the matured and intellectual politicians. I’m sure that the new parliament is going to be a better place with clean politicians. The people gave the mandate for good governance. Those who only thought about themselves and neglected their duties to the people have been rejected in this election. I would continue my work as a public servant of the UNP as I have done before. I will mainly focus on the development of infrastructure, providing employment opportunities for the youth. And I believe that justice would be served upon me in the new government.

M. Rahuman (UNP Colombo)

The election was carried out in a peaceful and a fair manner. And once again the people gave us the same mandate they gave us on January 08. Colombo Central is a very competitive electorate. And some key politicians have been defeated in the polls. I do not know the reason for that but it is the people’s will. And we hope to continue our work in fulfilling the promise we gave on January 08.

Especially, we have identified the main problems of Colombo as an urbanized area. And we hope to provide lasting solutions for these people.

Eric Weerawardhana (former MP UPFA Kandy) 

We had good hopes for victory. But as it seems the people’s wish is not the same. However, at the end, it is up to the people to decide who should go to the parliament and who should not. I did my best to do my duty. And now the preferences have been given. I would not give up politics because of this. I would consider this as an experience and would keep on working for the benefit of the people with more determination.

Hemal Gunasekera  (former MP UPFA Matara) 

Due to the political turmoil that took place in the recent times, the party had been divided into two factions as pro-Mahinda and Pro-Maithripala. It had even reached the grass-root levels. But we always worked in a balanced manner. But the extremists always insulted our stance. There were many plots against us. During the previous provincial council election, I won with a record majority. So this defeat is in no way possible. The reason is the division in the party. I am sorry about the people because those who have served them well have been defeated while those who had done nothing have been elected as MPs.

Nandimithra Ekanayake (UPFA Matale)

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was against me. It is because some had said that I was working against him. As a result they isolated me. He did not even come to our meetings. There were issues like this in the party. There were many conspiracies. I think they all contributed to my defeat.

 

Piyasena Gamage (UPFA Galle)

After we extended our support to President Maithripala Sirisena, we were accused of many things. Pro Mahinda faction in the UPFA branded us as traitors in public. I think this made us isolated in the party. And rather than helping me to win, some people in the party were trying more to defeat me. Mahinda Rajapaksa did not come to my electorate. But he went to all other electorates. We did all this for the benefit of the people.

 

Gunaratne Weerakoon (Galle UPFA)

At present voters are not considering the qualifications of the candidate when casting their votes. What the voters are interested in is the outward posture. I’m not sad about the defeat. I will continue my work as usual.