Move on, mandate still in place

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

In the post polls blogosphere, sundry pundits are having a field day. It is open mic session in media, both social and mainstream. To pontificate on what went wrong – or right, as the case may be for some – or prognosticate on the shape of things to come. So let me add to the Babel of voices albeit briefly; not to analyse (voter patterns are a tea leaf at the bottom of a cup business) or aggrandise (voter preferences a passing storm in tea cup), but share a personal perspective.


There are those who might interpret the SLPP’s landslide as a resounding slap in the face of the incumbent coalition Government. They might be on to something, don’t you think? But to go the giant next step and proclaim that the people’s mandate to the government we voted in, in 2015, is passé, is blasé. We would not willingly be gulled into such a blind alley, or let the accused off their hook so lightly. A presidential poll is not a local government election is another type of referendum altogether – a bulath kolé is not a lotus leaf is not a rose…


Be that as it may, the LG poll began as a ballot to elect the best local governors and became a referendum in the end on how the upper echelons of government were doing (or not) it all. If you went to the box with a cross in hand to etch against a party of street sweepers, you missed an opportunity to comment on the new brooms that had swept the state highways for three years with mixed results at best or a fail mark at worst. But building a nation is what happens almost by default while you’re beautifying your municipal borough. That a groundswell of resentment has reverberated through the polity is not necessarily a moratorium on the previous mandate. It is however an insight into the country’s mood at the moment – it is an amalgam of lost hope and faith as well as fresh expectations of an erstwhile regime, with a lime twist of Take That, You Sad Lot.

Marching on 

If the local political context of post-war years is anything to go by, our electoral culture flies in the face of commonsense as much as conventional wisdom. There is little merit in crying over spilt milk… although some political figures of no mean prominence have expressed sentiments that are in spectrum faux-humble (“we’re ever so sorry” “it’s my fault entirely”) to maudlin-saccharine-machismo (“sob, you ungrateful SOBs, well we deserve the unappreciative voters we get, we’ll try to do better because we have it all sorted, this is not the end, wait and see what we’ll do next”). So the caravan marches on, and the three-ring circus of exec, legislature and judiciary carries on far more respectably than under previous dispensations. Dare we say that the usual suspects in respective party enclaves will remain in situ until kingdom come? And the horse trading and sabre rattling characteristic of coalition politics at every level under the truly mixed proportional representation system will keep all the customary sycophants on their toes and the traditional brown-nose-brigade on their knees.

It is only a smaller savvier electorate that remains bloody but unbowed beneath the bludgeoning of blind chance. And market-tested consumer-approved brands that keep popping up like bad pennies partly due to chinks in customer psyches and probably a smidgen of latent chauvinism in all of us. It is they, or us, who need to examine our consciences, while our political masters browbeat and bargain like political survival is nobody’s business.

The Acid Tests

(Take the piece of paper in both hands, pls. Under no circumstances attempt to write on both sides of the paper at the same time – as some midstream horse-changers tend to do. X marks the spot where your reputation lies buried.)                               

A. Essays

After a long age a nationwide poll was conducted in relative quiet as well as welcome safety and security. Say a little prayer of thanks for your newfound ability to exercise your rights without undue duress or harassment. Essay why you feel and think that this is now the case with reference to 8 Jan 2015. Full marks for everyone – except those idiot candidates and their moronic supporters who managed to ruin everyone’s weekend by being arraigned for disturbing the peace in some far flung quarters of isolated election violence.     

 B.Short Answers

Have you lost your faith in the sitting ducks? Are you willing to let those lame ducks off the hook? Or has the strongman cooked their goose once and for all? If the powers that be stop swanning about even now, will you vote for them again in 2020? If so, why? Is there anything to conclusively prove they’ve learned a lesson? Be honest (it’s a tough call, but one the electors make, not the ‘victors’).

Can you tell the difference between a mandate and a mindset or a mood? If not, why not? Feel free to admit that you have a short memory, or are feeling extraordinarily forgiving of past faux-pas to the tune of billions, to say nothing of the cost in blood. Think again about what you can remember. Is it worth it? Be candid. Mandates/possible future candidates’ viability are open to interpretation.    

C.Multiple Choice Questions  

1.Pick one. (Like your vote)

a.The by proxy strongman came first is in charge of local government

b.The old foxy statesman who came second is still the prime minister

c.The wolf in sheep’s in-third might go on for a second term as president

2.Voter turnout is:

a.Abysmal, given the depredations denizens face daily

b.Brilliant, because it shows that people realise the importance of their franchise

c.Can’t say, even though the cop at my polling station was cynical (minissunta thérilaa)

d.Doing one’s civic duty, even if nothing changes in the end

3.Can you spot the difference?

a.A question asked (‘Kawda Horaa’) and an answer given (‘Mamai Rajaa’) 

b.Between false promises (‘I will step down’) and fake news or old hat (‘free Wi-Fi for all’)

c.Chauvinism that makes one lose face (there will be no enquiry), and ethno-nationalistic vim, vigour, and vitality that wins votes (congratulations, you hit the jackpot of being a winning brand! there is no such thing as bad publicity for a has been wannabe)  

4.Fill In The Blanks 

First past a post is the _____ (first to get home/passé for sophisticated polities cognisant of ground realities in a pluralistic country – at least on paper/a blasé way of ensuring that majoritarian hegemonies prevail)   

An islandwide recount is _____ (a canard/me in denial/the only sensible thing/just going through the motions to assuage my stakeholders that this is an outrage)

The UNP and the SLFP _____ (are done for good/must still continue to deliver on a previous mandate/can’t be in the mood for a second honeymoon/shall see it thru/thank their luck stars for the 4.5 year non-dissolution rule of 19A)

The JVP is ____ (losing/gaining) ground: 242,502 (2.84%) in 2011 à 693,875 (6.27%) in 2018

That landslide _____ (feels good/looks good/looks a little different when I closely scrutinise past percentages: 5.77 million (47.6%) in 2015, 4.95 million (47.7%) in 2018) … but that is maybe just the new math of the MSes: Maithree and Mangala

5.Quote Completion 

“I take all blame. But _____ (Ranil/Ravi/UNP) helped me big time. Since issues of _____ (campaign finance/money laundering/corruption in the home ranks) gave me gravitas as an _____ (assiduous champion of anticorruption/asseverating mouthpiece of platitudes).” 


1.American citizens can’t hold political office in republics where they once ruled the roost. (T/F)

2.Batten those hatches. Every able-bodied sailor to the deck. Because there is a Beast slouching towards Battaramulla to be born again. A bloodbath if MR becomes PM. (T/F) 

3.Constitutions such as ours are an albatross, a blessing and a curse all rolled up into one, and forever a monument to the divisive after-laugh of that wily old fox JR. (T/F) 

One more thing

I’m not sure what the next big thing is going to be. But at the time of writing only the electorate is sitting pretty having done the one thing assigned to it. With a case to be made for all politicos of every stripe having failed in some sense or another. Since a cross section of political leaders can share in the responsibility of the result it is incumbent on them to do whatever it takes to stay in power. Except they’re calling it win back the people’s favour, trust, love, etc. However, much sabres may be rattled by strongmen back in the saddle or horses traded by jaded statesmen captive to their jejune political ambitions, there’s still a matter of the mandate given in 2015. Therefore the landslide, be that as it may a barometer, is simply a cold front that may or may not pass or transmogrify into a full blown tornado in a brace of years. I’m not holding my breath about that eventuality. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Since, despite a nation’s mood today, its mindset of three years back still holds good for another brace of years.

A senior journalist, the writer is Editor-at-large of LMD. He can see the light side of the result, having resolved to champion at the poll those underdogs who bark at passing caravans.