Premature Provincial Council elections will pave the way for early Presidential Polls

By Gomin Dayasri

The staggered premature provincial council elections are to test the pulse of the people with a purpose not necessarily to present the people with another democratic opportunity to exercise their franchise.

More for the government to inspect the ground conditions to obtain a pitch report – to decide whether to bat or bowl. Yes, in non-sporting language, with politics being a far cry from any respectable sport – whether to hold Presidential elections, sooner or later? The result is predictable-Presidential Election is in the fast lane, either way.

Staggered in a manner to suit the captain calling the shots- selected areas are the happy hunting grounds for the government. Perception is to set a winning trend that can trigger on the momentum for a tidal wave to develop to engulf the entire island. Winner takes all. That’s stage-managing public opinion to make the proposed election a manipulative manoeuvre: legitimate but unethical. Ethics is far removed in politics, where predators continue to prey.

Symptomatically a Presidential Election is around the corner. The staggered elections are a forerunner to coming events. A presidential term is six years but could be reduced to four from the time of the last election: the discretion being with the holder of office. Naturally it will be exercised at the most opportune moment for the incumbent. –J.R.Jayewardane deemed it in the Constitution seeking a comfortable extension in a two term: Mahinda Rajapakse exploited by extending it indefinitely. Before the President prunes two years of his term, as he did previously- wants to test the water before taking the plunge. Four year mandatory wait is nearing completition. Confidence is high on winning but confidence can be misplaced.

A stage managed election with the coloration of being free and fair is difficult for the Opposition to win unless public acclaim for the leadership is overwhelming-as it did for Chandrika Kumaranatunga, winning the Southern Provincial Council during the Wijetunga era and set an unique trend. With Ranil Wickremasinghe, always ahead of the Opposition Pack, by a whisker in a photo finish, it is unlikely. If the opposition can greatly narrow the majorities, the government is in for a major jolt and is nearly as good as winning: for a trend will set. This is a trap that the government may get locked in. This election is all about majorities – both for the government and opposition – in a coming presidential or general election.

Forthcoming elections will not offer the government easy sailing in fair winds unlike in 2009 in the backdrop of a military triumph. Gratitude has been overtaken by charges of corruption, waste, mismanagement, inefficiency and maladministration. These deficiencies came to the forefront under every administration from the time J.R.Jayewardane ushered the1978 constitution but has become more pronounced in the present government- being indifferent and insensitive towards their extermination. It has impacted the public to the extent that any ‘wild story’, true or false, is believed as ‘possible’ in the public mind, as it is always more ‘probable’, placing the official version in the ‘unreliable’ column, preferring to believe even the ‘absurd’! The Government’s credibility is at the point of its lowest common denominator because of the shoddiness of its media manipulators. Government’s grip on State and Private Media is a major swing factor in any election in its favour: overdone makes it unpalatable, in being ‘over-cooked’.

The continuing drought is a plus or minus in the agricultural districts where elections are held –food prices soar and incomes dip followed with galloping inflation. The distribution of provisions as drought relief to voters legitimises the concept of ‘treating’- a forbidden word during election time to win votes. Government faces more hazards at the forthcoming election from the weather than from a joint Opposition front.

An opposition thrives on elections but not the local chapter because of the lack of confidence in their ability to win. By crying foul they are indirectly conceding defeat. If in a winnable situation, when elections are called, they should carry welcome posters. After 19 years in the wilderness they have not been able to churn out a winning combination. Ranil Wickremasinghe has aged gracefully without changing his character or outlook and the other side contenders Sajith Premadasa and Karu Jayasuriya show keenness to tag lamely behind a General’s uniform for the want of leadership material without asserting their party name. In the UNP, the emerging stars through media outlets are their two appointed MPs Harsha de Silva and Eran Wickremanayake with their consistent intelligent flow of comment but its reach is not beyond the rump in the stock market: their perennially faithful vote. UNP has failed to penetrate the enemy territory: as did J.R.Jayewardana and Mahinda Rajapakse to target the enemy from vantage positions.

The drift vote away from the Government has not rallied around the UNP due to its woeful performance and is moving to an abstention column in the ballot paper with a ‘do-nothing’ government. It is only the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development that has shown results.

Abstention is still favourable to the government since constituents like to cast their ballot and the spoilers are a few. Normally it swings to the opposition, to streak across the winners tape. Make out a national cause, absentees will flow back to the government instead of the opposition that sponsor tactlessly endless anti-national causes. Opposition is interested only in winning its traditional vote instead of winning an election by attracting fresh voters.

This is an election for the benefit of the politicians held in the name of the people