The political landscape post the provincial polls

Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

The elections to the North Western, Central and Northern provincial councils are over and the results have been largely as many political analysts predicted. The UPFA won in both the North Western and the Central provinces, while the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) romped home in the North. The political landscape though remains largely unchanged subsequent to the polls, with the polls reiterating but not altering the political dynamics that existed since the end of the war and the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2010.

UNP badly defeated

The ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) retained in the recent elections a 66% and a 60% popular vote share in the North Western and Central provinces respectively, roughly similar to the 69% and 59% they secured in the same provinces 2009. In fact in both provinces the UPFA increased their absolute number of votes and in the Central province, moved up from 59% to 60%.

In sad contrast the United National Party saw its percentage of the popular vote actually erode in both provinces. In the Central province the UNP went down from the 38% they polled in 2009 down to 27%, while in the North Western province they went down from 28% to 24%. In an election that saw over  one hundred thousand additional voters in both the North Western and the Central Provinces, the UNP actually polled less votes in 2013 than they did in 2009. So the UNP did not just loose votes only in relative terms, they lost votes in absolute terms. Thus the UNP General Secretary’s proud pre election claim that they will actually poll more votes than they did in 2009 was proved wrong, as the party actually polled a whole lot less. It would be wise for the UNP Working Committee, that precocious group of persons, to contemplate the sorry plight of their party. In the Northern province, the UNP’s 0.6% of the popular vote is not merely an embarrassment, it is farcical.

The Rajapakse regime must be feeling vindicated, that despite impeaching the Chief Justice, despite turning the military loose to brutally assault and shoot dead villages’ demanding unpolluted potable water in Weliweriya, despite increasing electricity tariffs by nearly 40%, despite allowing places of Muslim and Christian religious worship to be attacked with no effective preventive or corrective action, that they poll over 60% of the popular vote amongst about 2.3 million voters in two provinces. Possibly more an indictment on the UNP, than an endorsement of the regime.

TNA sweeps the North

The Northern Provincial Council elections of 2013, will be noted in history as the first election that the Rajapakse regime lost and lost big. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), led by Rajavarothiam Sambanthan, won a resounding victory in the North, getting almost four fifths (4/5) of the popular vote at 78.5% and about the same proportion of the seats or 30 out of 38 seats, in the provincial legislature. That the TNA pulled this off despite, all the kings horses and all the kings men, being deployed against it was indeed an amazing performance for the regional  ethnic minority political party and surpassed expectations. The UPFA as a government demonstrated just how alienated it is from the Tamil people of the North, by getting just 18% of the popular vote. Clearly governance in the North, whether by the Presidential Task Force or the Governor, that ignores and does not engage the TNA, would be completely unrepresentative of the local people and communities. However hard work lies ahead for the TNA and its newly elected Northern Provincial Council, to make the Council work for the benefit of the Tamil people of the North. Basically Northern Chief Minister elect, retired Justice C.V.Wigneswaren would have his work cut out for him and would have to replicate what Mayor Muzzamil has accomplished in Colombo, running the country’s largest municipality as a UNP controlled council in the context of a UPFA central and provincial administration.

Democratic Party comes of age as the third player while JVP declines further

Just when we thought the JVP was at rock bottom, they sink to new lows, getting about 1.5% of the popular vote, demonstrating that there is no political space for them to occupy, since the UPFA has run off with their political clothes.

A winner of sorts at the provincial polls was the new Democratic Party (DP) of retired General Fonseka, who firmly established itself as the third force in Sri Lankan politics securing about 4% of the popular vote and five seats in the two provincial councils. The Machiavelli of Madamulene’s political calculations were right when he released General Fonseka from custody, that General Fonseka would split the opposition vote and eat into the UNP support base, further weakening an already ineffective opposition. A quick analysis of the Democratic Party vote would indicate that it came largely at the expense of the UNP. General Fonseka and the Democratic Party has not really added to or increased the size of the opposition support base, it has merely cannibalized support from the UNP, which really means that General Fonseka and the DP, is not effectively taking on the Rajapakse regime either.

Basically the provincial polls has merely reiterated and strengthened the political realities which existed before the election. President Rajapakse demonstrates that he is hugely popular among the Sinhala voters, while the TNA demonstrates that they are similarly popular among the Tamil people. These two facts, we knew with certainty even before the elections, though the polls reinforce that. The real challenge is will the UPFA and the TNA, or more correctly would President Rajapakse and R.Sambanthan restart their structured political dialogue and engagement or not. For the sake of both their constituencies and the nation as a whole, we would all hope so.

  • isanka mihiran

    a fine article….compliments!

  • srivanamoth

    A good political analysis based on the last elections. But post independence, surely a catastrophe. And uncertainty stares into the future.

  • Thunder

    This wasn’t a miraculous victory by TNA . The victory was pertained as much as the sun rise next day .which I believe that was known to whole world , perhaps, may could have not been to some one who not living in this planet . Therefore , I suggest to stop nonsense those who tries to deceive people by baseless and unwanted braggings .
    This is not what we must take to accountability , the legal document now has been handed over to TNA from the Goverment hand for certain extent ,that is what I believe , therefore it is now in the hand of own people to yield the right thing to the war torn territory without turn out the people into next blood shed .
    Many people along the international community is satisfied with latest out come and it is a greatest satisfaction on the side of president as well , as he can shut up the whole world for their grusome allegations made toward the regime since post war . The president can shows to the world that how well he implemented the pledges he made to the international community. But that is alone would not be into our level of satisfaction ,as TNA and the government has to work together to the satisfaction and interst of people in the north and east .instead of consuming the valuable time being in the cool rooms in Colombo area as the politicians always do.
    I also prefer to hear from the TNA politicians that they are committed to address their problems through the dialog With central Goverment without misleading people to another blood shed . I would personally think those TNA and Rajapaksa would never ever will be able to resolve all Sri lankan’s potential problems but this moment is very important moment to all of us as there are some sort of credibility tonpeople in the north & east which is a huge consolation .

  • Thunder

    I also would like to request to stop those who pay attention to seek the assistance from india or TN to resolve our internal problem as it can create number of external problems between us . What we must realise now is to restore our relationship and corporation through the peaceful routes . And there is a very serious issue been left which is the disillusionment of separate home land which has to ignore and training people to integrate into the society as Sri lankans which is the right challenge lie ahead in the future. I hope that wingnaswaran and his people can lead the country to such prospect , unless we would never will have a chance like today to find the real answer to this problem again.

  • Antany Peter

    I really don’t believe the country’s situation will improve significantly, because the leaders aren’t smarter than the previous leaders. Thirty years ago China wasn’t even in the picture, but it is now. The situation has got complicated more than ever before, but the leaders are not smarter. Therefore, people will continue to suffer in the country. Election does not mean anything, people had elections in the 1970′s and the 1980′s, still the country fell into a brutal civil war. It seems the country and the people are cursed, because the people and the leaders don’t give a damn to the country’s intellectuals. Blessed people value the knowledge and appreciate the people who have the knowledge; but the cursed people and the cursed leaders disregard the knowledge, and ignore the people who have knowledge. The powerful countries make sure that the Sri Lankan leaders stay away from the Intellectuals who can think for the country, in order to use the foolish leaders for their benefits.