The unconventional move of former President Rajapaksa to contest and win the general election failed. The Central Committee of the UPFA has already taken the line of the President and agreed to a National Government. At the same time, although he was defeated, we should congratulate Rajapaksa for his contribution to form the strongest Opposition against several odds under the second republican Constitution.
Rajapaksa was defeated twice during a short span of time period, firstly at the presidential elections held on 8 January and at the Parliamentary elections held on 17 August. His aspiration firstly was to be the President of Sri Lanka for a third consecutive term and secondly the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka under the recently-amended Constitution, which reversed the draconian amendments to the Constitution introduced by him.
It appeared to be that the intention of his second attempt for power at the general election was twofold. Firstly to take a cover from the charges of corruption, abuse of law and murders against him and his regime. It would have been safer and able to make deals if he could be among the masses rather than staying at his home alone in retirement. Secondly to appease a similar minded group of corrupt politicians and a group of politicians representing minority parties of UPFA who would not have any political future without him.
However the real reason underneath is his addiction to and intoxication of power which he used based on his whims and fancies with utter disregard for law and order of the country. It would be very hard for an autocratic leader to let the power go out of his hands. In the background of the developing political situation within UPFA and SLFP it is most likely that he would lead a break away fraction of SLFP along with the minority parties of UPFA who are the parasites living on SLFP.
As per the results the UNP secured 106 seats out of 225 seats and UPFA secured 95 seats. The TNA obtained 16 seats and the JVP obtained six seats. The EPDP secured one seat in Jaffna District and the SLMC obtained one seat in Batticaloa.
It is clear that there was a reduction of votes for the UPFA gradually considering the trend of voting of the majority Sinhala electorates from 2010 general election through presidential election 2015 to general election 2015. A significant number of voters who voted in favour of the UPFA gradually changed their affiliation to UNP.
There was a reduction of voter turnout of the general election 2015 which was 77.6%, compared to the voter turnout of the presidential election 2015 which was 81.52%. The JVP did not contest for the presidential election but worked against the Rajapaksa regime and apparently they have obtained a portion of the votes given to Sirisena in the presidential election.
It was stated by many that this election was the freest and fairest election held under the second republican Constitution. The credit should go to the Government of good governance. Minimum number of seats required to obtain the simple majority of the parliament is 113. Number of seats obtained by the two major parties in the previous general elections held under the second republican Constitution is given in the Table A.
The victorious party obtained a minimum number of seats only in two occasions, in 1989 and 2010. One was held under the threat of JVP insurrection and the other was held soon after the war victory. These Governments which did not have the required number of minimum seats were not weak governments since members of the Opposition joined the Government in order to strengthen its hands.
It was announced that the UPFA Central Committee decided to support the President to form a National Government at least for a two-year period. However even if UPFA tries to topple the Government, if the TNA decided to stay independently without supporting either the UPFA or the UNP it would be impossible to topple the Government. Both the TNA and JVP are in the same line of thinking of the Government.
Out of all these elections, in this election the main Opposition party secured the highest number of seats, which is a notable feature and would be a challenge for the new Government. This election with the arrival of Rajapaksa polarised the voter base so that there were twofold effects. Firstly small parties suffered. Voters thought empowering small parties would hamper the possibilities of their favourite party coming to power. The JVP expected more seats but due to the tight battle of the two major parties they have to be content with six seats.
Secondly it helped to negate the expectations of the March 12 movement to a great extent. Election results as well as the selection of candidates mainly by the UPFA was a gross violation of the expectation of the March 12 movement which was taken forward by the civil society. The main request was to nominate or elect candidates with following qualities:
Should not be a criminal
Free of bribery and corruption
Free of anti-social trades
Not abusing authority
Free of abusive financial contracts
Close to their electors
Adequate opportunities for women and youth
Several party leaders and general secretaries signed this declaration. There were many candidates who were nominated by UPFA and eventually elected by the people with very high preferential votes, with those anti- social qualities. Let alone the UPFA even in UNP there were prominent candidates who were elected used underworld connections for the election.
Some UNP candidates aroused religious feelings in order to get preferential votes against their colleagues. These Gnanasara-style acts should be condemned. Several deserving candidates of all the parties were not selected.
The Rajapaksa campaign once again raised racism to gain votes of the Sinhala Buddhists. Although there was a reduction of the voters who favoured Rajapaksa, it was a considerable number amidst the revelations of various corrupt activities taken place under his regime.
Voters considered this as a battle. Therefore candidates who can attack the other party vociferously even though they were corrupt and murderous were voted in. This may be a result of strong collectivist culture prevalent in Sri Lanka where in group members are favoured even though they are not up to the level.
However the stance taken by the majority of voters was in favour of the broad democratic principles. Therefore the March 12 movement should proceed with educating the people continuously otherwise we may have to dissolve this set of voters and appoint a better set.
"This election result is a victory for the good governance and democracy in Sri Lanka and victory against authoritarianism. This victory proved the power of the people in democratic states and would mark the dawn of new era of good governance and democracy in Sri Lanka"
This would be the beginning of a democratic trend of the country after a lapse of several long years. Wickremesinghe was talking of the Sri Lankan brand of a democratic model which would be a slight deviation from the multi-party system. This materialised with the signing of MOU between UNP and SLFP the two major parties of the country. Although it was not mentioned in the agreement it would be appropriate to concentrate on a new Constitution together with devolution of power before the spirit of victory fades away.
President Jayewardene failed to convene an all party conference to find a solution to the ethnic conflict although he has promised it prominently in his election manifesto in 1977. The Prime Minister has been talking about Lichchavi system for a long time. This would be a solution for the collectivist Sri Lankan cultural biases which hampered the implementation of Western developed democratic systems in the country.
The Government should not only follow the Lichchavi system but also it should follow the footsteps of Asoka, Dutugemunu and Vijayabahu I who were great leaders as well as great warriors.
Asoka who ruled a vast area of India two and half millenniums back, although a promoter of Buddhism, never imposed it on his subjects. He treated all his subjects as his children. Dutugemunu after defeating Elara in a duel two millenniums back ordered to erect a tomb to respect his opponent and ordered everybody who passed that tomb with no exceptions to respect it. The order was followed for millenniums.
Vijayabahu I after a decisive victory against the Chola invaders a millennium back ordered the erection of rock scripts in Tamil for the benefit of the people who knew only Tamil. Although they were autocrats they understood well about the multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies they ruled. They were able statesmen who knew the art of governance and thereby won the hearts of all their subjects.
Having experienced a rule of a pseudo king for long years the present Government should take necessary steps without delay to bring about reconciliation, which is a prerequisite for much-needed development and economic progress.
This election result is a victory for the good governance and democracy in Sri Lanka and victory against authoritarianism. This victory proved the power of the people in democratic states and would mark the dawn of new era of good governance and democracy in Sri Lanka.
Since the Opposition also becomes a part of the Government, civil organisations which signed agreements with the ruling alliance before the elections should be vigilant throughout and should criticise the Government constructively if it tries to move away from the set direction. Thereby they should build an active democratic opposition outside the Parliamentary system, paving the way to experiment on democratic models further.