COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan parliamentary elections slated for August 17 will go down in history as one of the most unusual.
President Maithripala Sirisena is featured in the posters and ads of the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG), the ruling party, as well as the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA), the opposition party. Both the UNFGG and UPFA are claiming Sirisena because as Executive President for the next five years, he could play a critical role.
Sirisena is the chairman of the UPFA, and yet, he declared in a televised address that the UPFA will not win, and even if it wins, he will not make his rival, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister. Sirisena has put his loyalists in the UPFA list to deny victory to the Rajapaksa faction thus adversely affecting the UPFA’s overall chances.
Rajapaksa’s main aim is to become PM and make the President’s life as difficult as possible.
Sirisena had ditched him, left the UPFA, become the Joint Opposition Candidate and beat him in the January 8 Presidential election. Sirisena is only too aware of Rajapaksa’s game plan and has made no effort to shield Rajapaksa’s party lieutenants facing cases in the CID and the courts filed by the UNFGG-dominated government.
New Look Politico
The August 17 elections have also brought into being the “decent” politico. Tired of Rajapaksa’s nine year rule marked by corruption, intimidation and authoritarianism, Lankan civil society had called for clean and educated candidates. Taking the cue, the Janatha Vimukthi Permuna (JVP) put up candidates of high standing. Forced to follow, the other parties are parading their achievements in the social and intellectual fields.
Ministers Mahinda Samarasinghe, Champika Ranawaka, Rauff Hakeem and Wimal Weerawansa have released their “books”. Even an established politician like Susil Premajayantha is showing himself as a “lawyer” rather than a politico.
This is the quietest election, to date. With the ban on posters and hoardings and time limits for public meetings, the dominant outreach media are the press and TV. A recent survey by the Center for Policy Alternatives found that 59 percent had made up their minds watching TV.