Photo by Ad Care
Sri Lanka’s August 5 parliamentary elections saw the Sri Lanka People’s Front (SLPP) sweep into power with 145 seats by winning 6.8 million (59%) of the valid votes cast. A two-thirds majority, or 150 seats in a 225-member parliament, is now possible through its allies.
The main reason for seeking a two-thirds majority was to change the constitution, overturning the 19th amendment that reigned in the powers of the president and gave them back to the parliament and the prime minister. The 19th amendment ensured a series of checks and balances such as independent commissions under the Constitutional Council and the Right to Information Act. It brought back the provision that the President could only serve two terms, which was removed from the constitution by the 18th amendment.
But as Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa saw it, a two-thirds majority was necessary to carry out President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s vision for the country, without any impediments, by instituting a “people-friendly” constitution.
“We have a diligent President, but we still need to establish a stable government to see his goals fulfilled. For this, the public must vote in a stable and strong government,” he told an election meeting in Colombo.
“Gotabaya Rajapaksa wants a presidency that is unlimited by the constitution, and untrammelled by either laws or norms. He wants a free hand to rule as he sees fit, with the military as the weapon of choice…But to realise his vision of total personalised rule, he needs a parliament that will bow and scrape before him. He can then use that parliament to browbeat the judiciary into compliance..,” wrote political analyst Tisaranee Gunasekara in an article on Groundviews.
In light of the landslide victory and 2/3rds majority won by the SLPP, Groundviews interviewed members of the public around the Pettah, Maradana and Wekanda areas to find out what they thought of the overwhelming win and their views on the implications of being governed by an all-powerful state.
The reception, reactions and responses of those interviewed were varied. However, most were hesitant to share their opinion or reluctant to have their response recorded and less so on camera. Those who showed interest in sharing their opinion emphatically requested to maintain their anonymity. The general feelings among those approached were nervousness and reservation, especially among the minorities.
The people who were most open to conversation said they were tired of the political situation in the country, and many admitted that they had not even voted this time. One man approached by Groundviews refused to be interviewed, saying “Don’t ask us about politics, we are tired of it!” and another laughed it off saying, “We don’t like to talk about those things.”
The following three questions were asked from those interviewed:
- What is your opinion on the 2/3rds majority?
- Do you recall the last time a Government was elected to parliament with more than a 2/3rds majority?
- Is a strong opposition needed to keep a Government accountable to its people?
Of those interviewed, only few were unhappy with the 2/3rds majority. Many believed that it was necessary and positive, while others said that it would depend on how the Government acted from here on. Most of the interviewees skipped over the second question or avoided giving a direct answer, expressing their contempt towards the entire political system. All those who were interviewed agreed that a strong opposition was needed to keep the Government in check, including those who supported the 2/3rds majority.
Below is the video with the responses.