Photo courtesy Fatalnews

As nominations closed earlier this week, the contours of the battle lines for the general election to Parliament became clear. The two major political formations in the country, the UNP and the UPFA are vying for a parliamentary majority and with it effective control of the next government.

The UNP spent an useful weekend, creating a broad political front, styled the United National Front for Good Governance, (UNFGG) which will contest the elections under the UNP’s elephant symbol and be registered as a party after the elections. The UNFGG is a broad rainbow alliance, much like the NDF of January this year, having in its spectrum, the Sinhala nationalist JHU to the ethnic minority parties, including the SLMC, the breakaway Maithri faction of the SLFP and the up country political parties with the dominant UNP in the center. The UNFGG, as successor to the NDF, are clear favorites to win the elections, not least because of the myriad of problems that beset the UPFA.

A declining trend for the UPFA 

A quick analysis of elections results from early 2014, shows the UPFA in a steady decline from the Western and Southern Provincial Council elections of early 2014, to a more comprehensive near loss at the Uva provincial elections in October last year and of course its historic and monumental loss by over half a million votes in the presidential elections of 2015. There is little reasons for the trend to not continue (with Arjuna Mahendran’s alleged foibles hardly a game changer) and the UPFA is headed for a more ignominious defeat.

While the UNP has reinvented itself by having the JHU to guard its Sinhala nationalist flank, the UPFA has lost its sole Tamil alley of the EPDP, now going solo in Jaffna and as well as having lost all its Muslim allies in January itself. The presence of both AHM Fowzi and Faizer Mustapha on the national list and not contesting, is a clear indication, that the UPFA let alone elect a Muslim is unlikely to get a single Muslim vote, almost.

The UPFA nostalgia for Rajapakse

The presence of the discredited and defeated former President Rajapakse, in practice leading the UPFA’s electoral effort to a mono ethno religious, rural Sinhala Buddhist voter base needs to be understood in the context of two factors. Firstly, President Maithripala Sirisena was seen as unwilling to be a partisan leader of his own political party, the SLFP. Especially in an electoral contest in which his political allies were vying for parliamentary seats as well as in governance since January, President Sirisena has played the role of umpire, rather than that of captain of the SLFP. This left the SLFP in a dilemma since they obviously did not want to face the hustling led by Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala De Silva, who failed to secure the Badulla District for the UPFA in the last provincial poll, let alone lead in the country. Since Rajapakse had been nursing a dynastic project, his sudden defeat left a leadership vacuum, which President Sirisena as the opponent who defeated him could not really fill, as was demonstrated by his party continuing to be in opposition, while he headed the government.

UPFA out of ideas in the midst of declining support

This writer way back in 2010, had both in private and in the press, advised the then Rajapakse Administration, that it had maxed out on Sinhala nationalist support. In other words, it had moved so far to a Sinhala nationalist political hue, that it could not hope to ever increase its support by being more nationalist than it already was. There are no additional votes to be got by being more Sinhala nationalist than it already was. The only socio political space more extreme than Mahinda Rajapakse, was overt communal violence and at the tail end of the Rajapakse regime, even that was unleashed with impunity from Dambulla to Dharga Town. So increasing voter support for the UPFA meant a shift to the center. That is a shift it has failed to do. Out of ideas, stuck in the past and morally and intellectually bankrupt, the UPFA will be ratcheting up the rhetoric and engaging in the same racist hate mongering and fear peddling which is its only stock in trade and the only language that its gang of four, the main non SLFP leaders of the “Bring back Mahinda Campaign” understand.

Protecting the January 8th People’s Revolution

On January 8th this year, the non populist, lesser known, non iconic and soft spoken presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena, defeated the larger than life, populist and war win glory hugging, two term incumbent Mahinda Rajapakse. Mahinda Rajapakse won every aspect of the January election campaign, he won the poster war, we were smiled down at every street corner by North Korean dictator style giant cutouts, the state media, especially electronic gave a totally monopoly to Mahinda Rajapakse and slandered Maithripala Sirisena. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission released Rupees six hundred million for giveaways to voters and despite all this Mahinda lost. Even the pre dawn attempt to stop the vote count, complete with advice by the interloper who impersonated as the Chief Justice for two years, was unsuccessful as the public, the officials, observers, security forces and international community saw the writing on the wall. Mahinda Rajapakse’s astrologers, magicians and soothsayers had been wrong about his reelection prospects and they and his political allies are similarly wrong about his rather misguided attempt at a political come back. The country needs a better opposition leader than Mahinda Rajapakse.

(The writer is the Chairman of the Resettlement Authority, the views expressed are personal)

  • Metteyya Brahmana

    This article is complete propaganda for Ranil and the UNP, and like with most propaganda it leaves out a lot of important details that undermine the central argument in the article.

    The basic problem with Harim’s analysis is he tries to simplify the election dynamics to one of ethnic inclusion (UNP) versus “mono ethno religious, rural Sinhala Buddhist voters” (UPFA) without telling us that there were at least 2 million voters in January that did NOT vote along ethnic lines and fell for the short-term election gimmick of Ranil concerning “good governance”. These good governance voters are not UNP party loyalists and probably voted for Rajapaksa and the UPFA in 2010 to give him his two-thirds majority.

    The basic question in the upcoming August election is who are these good governance voters going to vote for this time around, knowing that Ranil and the UNP took them for a ride on the good governance issue, and tried to cover up the largest bond fraud in Sri Lankan history with a so-called ‘independent’ committee of UNP party loyalists who claimed the Central Bank Governor, Arjuna Mahendran, had “no direct involvement in the issuance of the bonds to his nephew’s securities firm.” Page 8 of the interim COPE report that the Ranil and the UNP are desperately trying to prevent from being disclosed to the public contains testimony from at least two different superintendents in the bond trading room of the Central Bank that said that Mahendran came into the bond trading room twice during the bond issuance in question, demanded to see the bidding list, and then directed them over their objections to accept bids to the ‘exact’ amount of his nephew’s bid. They also said during their entire careers with the Central Bank, a Central Bank Governor has never before come into their trading room and intervene in a specific issuance of particular bonds.

    This ain’t “good governance” folks, so it is no surprise that the UNP is trying to cover up the bond scam like the worst secret in the world, by first getting a phony ‘independent’ committee to clear Mahendran with a deliberate lie concerning his direct involvement, then getting Maithripala to dissolve parliament right before the COPE report on the bond fraud was to be released, and now this latest stunt of getting a UNP loyalist judge to issue an injunction against the distribution of the COPE report by certain members of Parliament. This entire attempted cover-up is with the vain hope that the UNP can fool the good governance voters who voted for them in January once again to have them support their corrupt UNP-led regime.

    Even if Mahinda gets only half of these 2 million good governance voters, if he holds onto his base of 5.8 million voters from January, he is looking at a 130 seat majority in Parliament in August with 6.8 million UPFA votes and a new job as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.

    If you want to read about the UNP’s so-called good governance in the COPE report (see page 8), you can find it by doing a Google search for: “draft interim report on treasury bond issue leaked”

    • CSBR

      My dear, you are not understanding the election dynamics of Sri Lanka. MR had gone with full throttle to get that 58 million votes. Do you really believe that 58 million is still there? Just look at the crossovers specially at grassroot level, which usually reflects what is the stronger side. Truth is that like every coalition, the time of UPFA is up. They will have to create another one on 2020 to get the power back!!!

      • Aravinda

        UPFA will get 130 seats. Bank Bond scam has finished UNP. those involved in this horrendous crime will have a rebirth as cockroaches! they will not get punished in this life. they will FLY-BY-NIGHT on 16th August.

    • coldinfern0

      Leaving all political agenda’s aside, if you have a look at the blunder’s caused by the government run under MR, the Central Bank bond issue pales in comparison. But let me start off by saying yes, I agree the CB governor should have been fired. The UNP should have come out and taken the blame for the debacle and started investigating Perpetual Treasuries and the insiders in the banks (BOC, etc) that handled the bond issue.

      However, lets have a look at some of the failures of the previous government shall we? A 100 billion rupee loss at Sri Lankan airlines as at February, 2015[1]. And lets keep in mind that this was a perfectly well functioning company when it was run in partnership with Emirates and Peter Hill was the CEO. And how did they counter this in the 10 years of their governance?

      Then lets look at the CEB and Ceypetco. Until Champika Ranawaka was appointed as the Minister of Energy (i.e. in charge of the CEB) it was complete chaos (at least from an outsider’s point of view). They did end up increasing prices because of the terrible financial situation, but managed to bring things under control and even ended up reducing prices somewhere in 2013. And then what did they do? Removed the man who was clearly doing a good job and appointed Pavithra Vanniarachchi.

      And Ceypetco came under heavy burden because of both these mammoth companies couldn’t meet their fiscal obligations.

      All this is without taking into account all the thuggery, political victimisation of the judicial system, nepotism and to top it all off, the 18th Amendment.

      Of course the previous government built the highways, ports and rehabilitated some of the rural road network. But they used the worst tactics to do all these things. The commissions, bribery and the lack of due process when undertaking these projects was way too much. The ends do not always justify the means.

      [1]https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sri-lankan-airlines-parliament-reveals-ul-loss-is-over-rs-100-billion/

      • Metteyya Brahmana

        Not sure the UNP bond fraud ‘pales’ by comparison, as this was a several BILLION dollar blunder because of the size of the bond issuance, length to maturity, and difference between paying 9.5% on these bonds versus 12%. Think about all the economic development you could have funded with the billions lost?

        Ceypetco is now complaining about cost-of-living fraud, in that the UNP is artificially lowering petrol prices below their cost for election purposes. They claim they will have to go out of business unless the government subsidizes these losses.

        Again, this is not “good governance”, it is short-term election gimmicks and deception by Ranil and the UNP to try to gain power.

  • Aravinda

    UNP crooks started to steal from Day 1. The Bank Bond scam has now made ordinary Sri Lankans very angry. The Bond thieves never expected to get caught so soon. If they can run this scam for 30 years, they will completely bankrupt Sri Lanka. Total robbery could be 300 Billion rupees in today’s money. But these numbers are open ended. that could be TEN times more. that is if the interest rates fall in Sri Lanka like rest of the world. That is the most likely scenario. This is one of the biggest bank scams in history of Asia. They wanted to steal as much as possible in first 100 days because they can never come to power in a election. UNP has 41 seats in a 225 member parliament. they will struggle to maintain this 41 on 17th August.

  • Jayalath

    The weight of this article is not much different to the propaganda that carried out by Sirisena and his team before the last election. And also the article has failed to analyse the shambolic areas of economic ,politics and good governance within last few months which is pathetic and outrageous. I would say there are very serious defaults can be seen in the minority state from the prime ministerial post to central bank bond issue and the nepotism. The nepotism was something that echoed on the last election stages against Rajapaksa ,but what we have been seeing today. I would mind to ask you to find out impartially that how far the nepotism has rooted in the politics and every other areas of life in our country ,I suppose ,it would be shocking. Hence ,,I cannot see any better turn out of good governing within Ranil’s controlled period .so, we are at the dawn of a fresh election,and there are staggering amount of questions are remained unanswered,thus, would they be able to erect the declined credence of the minority government within the given time