Photo by AFP PHOTO/ Ishara S.KODIKARA via The Japan Times

This analyst has always maintained that the formulae for the defeat of the Rajapakse regime, was a divided government and a unified opposition. Given the absolute fragmented disarray in which the main opposition United National Party was in, only a very short while ago, it was nearly impossible to imagine a situation in which the opposition could coalesce around a single candidate and a common program. However, due to the astute political coalition building of a few key national political leaders, including opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe and former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, we have today what was thought the near impossible, a common opposition presidential candidate, in Maithripala Sirisena, around whom everyone can rally. So seasoned were the key leaders, that despite all the phone tapping and e-mail monitoring, the Administration was unaware that a deal had been concluded and that large swathes of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party would essentially peel away from President Rajapakse, led by its General Secretary.

Even as the opposition united, the Rajapakse Administration came apart at the seams. From the JHU on the one hand, to the tiny Liberal Party of Professor Rajiva Wijesinghe on the other end of the spectrum, from the youthful Duminda Dissanayake and Wasantha Senanayake to the seasoned Rajitha Senaratne, the ruling coalition begins to unravel and former political allies, in the campaign to come will explain to Mahinda Rajapakse’s core constituency, why seven more years of Rajapakse rule would be a very bad idea.

Meanwhile, expect the broad opposition rainbow coalition supporting the common opposition candidate to grow, as other political parties, civil society groups, including trade unions and professional bodies all rally around an attractive proposition, that of re-democratizing  Sri Lanka through constitutional reforms. The proposition is attractive to ruling elites and is broadly supported by the Sinhala constituency for whom the 18th amendment, impeaching the Chief Justice and pushing through a casino based development strategy, are all quite unpopular. Economic pain felt by the public has been successfully linked to government corruption.

Maithripala, a rare breed of a gentleman politician  

Maithripala Sirisena is a rare breed of a gentleman politician in today’s political landscape, a politician with an impeccable track record, untainted by either violence or corruption. It is possible to imagine the end of the white van culture under a Maithripala presidency or “Maithri palanaye” or Maithri’s governance. Like Mahinda Rajapakse was before him, Maithri is a political leader with a genuine national appeal. The son of a farmer, he had practiced a brand of centrist, moderate and clean politics, which characterizes the best in Sri Lanka’s political culture. The drastically divergent choice before the Sri Lankan people will become clearer as the campaign unfolds.

A Rajapakse third term, lacks a compelling message

Facing the unified Opposition, is a Rajapakse Administration hemorrhaging support, especially from within, basically setting up an election which will become a Rajapakse verses the rest contest. Mahinda Rajapakse can no longer use the war or the LTTE as rationale for a disputed and unprecedented third term, especially when serious concerns exist within the mainstream Sinhala constituency, including its Buddhist nationalist element regarding governance. The only message the Regime seems to have, based on its initial reactions to the basic fragmentation of its coalition are its usual bogeys of a western conspiracy, a supposedly emerging Muslim Jihad and an alleged regrouping of the LTTE. These messages did not resonate earlier this year, either at the Western, Southern or Uva provincial council elections and is unlikely to stem the flow of support away from President Rajapakse.

From the various governance issues raised by the 18th amendment, to impeaching the chief justice, to insisting on flag ship status casinos, unsolicited mega projects generating minimal local jobs and general economic mismanagement, the Sinhala constituency is basically coming to the conclusion that a third term Rajapakse presidency or seven more years, (six year term plus the next term beginning in November 2015), is not really in its interest. A solo UNP campaign would have challenged Mahinda Rajapakse on his weaknesses, including with minority communities, but the Rajapakse’s had already discounted and dismissed the minorities and had a game plan of banking heavily on getting a preponderance of the Sinhala vote. It was after all a winning formula, in 2005 and 2010, though in 2005 it just about barely worked. However in 2015, Mahinda Rajapakse is being challenged on his strong suit, Sinhala nationalism, by a moderate centrist challenger, whose essential message is that seven more years of Rajapakse rule is bad for every sector of society and that Sri Lanka requires a re-democratization process, which includes eliminating or reducing the powers of the executive presidency.

A minimally free poll is a challenge

The real challenge facing all of Sri Lanka is to insist and work towards a genuinely free and fair election. As a nation, that received universal adult franchise in 1931 and has a proud if rather fragile democratic tradition, we as a society we must insist on a free poll and an end to the abuse of state resources. For starters both satellite TV service providers, should be held accountable for their actions in shutting off the Sirasa political discussion by the common opposition. These are public companies traded on the Colombo Stock Exchange and minority shareholders should demand an explanation from both companies, to prevent such partisan caving in to the regime. However a mass scale rig is also not really possible, simply because the system tends to become self corrective as popular sentiment moves against an incumbent. Take for instance the current issue of the mass transfer of police officers. The IGP and the former IGP, now installed as Secretary of the Law and Order Ministry are at loggerheads over the issue. The regime also is now unsure as to who they can trust, as shifting loyalties of former confidantes, creates a fifth column inside the Rajapakse Administration. A divided Rajapakse Administration facing a unified opposition coalescing around constitutional reform and common candidate Maithripala Sirisena, holds out the real prospect that the days of the Rajapakse regime are numbered.

  • Jay

    MR had a wonderful opportunity in his hands to go down in history as one of the best example of a world class leader who defeated a the most leathal terrorist group in the world and then let the country to be one of the worlds best example of co existence of people from multi religious background and made one of his brother to contest but the greed for power , corruption,money, arrogance , drug dealers, ethonal dealers, assaulting diplomats, nepotism , bribing of MP’s with $ and postions,bbs thugs ,bad language,impeachment of CJ,bad relations with international community,closing of traffic for him and his family to travel, white van , harassing journalist , violence against opponents etc………….just for those reasons he needs to go, I hope all good people of our nation will say thank you but no thank you

    However he needs to be protected after his defeat from being handed over to any outsiders

  • Sarath Samaranayake

    Sri Lanka is seemingly undergoing
    a drastic change in the political structure and the present government’s stability
    nowadays. The President has already called an election to be held in January in
    2015. A strong common candidate from the Rajapakshe regime has come out to
    contest in the forthcoming election and it is seen that there is a renewed interest
    among the general public of Sri Lanka. What the general public highly demands
    is to support the common presidential candidate to overthrow the current president
    Rajapakshe in order to establish a free and just society under the leadership
    of the common candidate to be elected after the presidential election. The
    question as to why people in Sri Lanka want to have a political change needs to
    be examined in different perspectives. First of all what, it is appropriate for
    one to see what the current president did in the past and what he is doing in the
    present. It is true that he was able to stop the terrorist problem and after that
    people expected him to lead the country towards development. However, in terms
    of development what he did was to construct highway road system for Sri Lanka.
    This is a long-felt need for the country which did not have a proper network of
    roads connecting all major cities in the country. Except for the road system,
    all the other major projects such as construction of Mattala airport,
    Hambantota Harbor and coal power station
    in Kerawlapitiya have become a white elephant even though the government hypes
    about those projects. Billions and billions of money have been spent on those
    projects but the expected outcomes are not a reality. The above are just a few instances
    but there are many. In this context, the government has failed to fulfill the expectations
    of the public. Now the government has been taxing people for almost everything
    except for the air that they breathe in. In the near future, if the same government
    under the leadership of Rajapakshe exists, the people of Sri Lanka will have to
    undergo lots sufferings.

    Rajapakshe is now
    overestimating his victory in the forthcoming election. Under Rajapakshe rule,
    there is nothing left in Sri Lanka that has not been politicized. Among them, the
    Sri Lankan constitution, the judicial system, police service, press, government
    ministries, election system and all other local bodies are the main. In
    addition, the high ranking politicians have direct dealing with drug traffickers.
    Recently, the Sri Lankan Customs caught a contained load of heroine brought
    into the country with the knowledge of Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister and later
    that incident was not investigated because of the involvement of the Prime
    Minister. This is how the low and order of Sri Lanka now is in practical
    operation. The country is full of corruption and frauds. Now it is time that
    democracy and good governance is brought back to the country. Therefore, given
    all the facts, people of Sri Lanka should now take a better decision in the
    forthcoming presidential election not to cast his/her vote for a corrupted and
    incredible politician like Rajapakshe who has make Sri Lanka such a foreign indebted
    country in the Asia instead of miracle of Asia.

  • LoseLoose

    Can you give examples of Good Governance by CBK?

  • LoseLoose

    Can you give us examples of good governance under CBK who is leading the charge here please? Do Thomians not like views opposed to their political agenda? Every post I made here has disappeared; only those attacking MR remain.