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Sri Lanka: A Predictable Election

On 8th of April 14 million Sri Lankan voters were poised to vote in the parliamentary election to elect a new government. Nalaka Gunawardene at Groundviews writes:

The election campaigns for the past many weeks have seen the usual glut of rhetoric and promises. Our endlessly bickering political parties rarely agree on anything, so it’s refreshing to see a broad consensus on what this election is fundamentally about: future prosperity.

The election saw a low turnout (apprx. 55%), much lower than for the presidential polls in January (apprx. 75%). There are reports that thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) were denied from voting in the North. The reason for low voter turn out was contributed by the fact that many from the Tamil minority abstained from voting.

The parliamentary election was marred by violence as several incidents were reported during the day. The Center For Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) informs that there were 84 major incidents on Election day and it lists details of 13 such reported incidents. Votes in 18 polling booths will be retaken on April 20th. CMEV also mapped the incidents for better navigation:

Serendipity shares frustrations regarding the election process, which is not about manifestos but abuse of power and wealth to get elected:

It is a very sad time indeed in our Serendipitous Isle, for ‘Good Governance’ that we hold a General Election, where no one knows what the individual parties stand for, and which if truth be told, the Governing Alliance did not even bother to publish a manifesto, being confident that they will win.

The election therefore has been reduced to one of people, with all ‘Media Advertising’ as well as posters and cutouts concentrating merely on individuals to be elected to represent a district.

Individuals therefore have had to raise funds, use public resources unashamedly, a perfect example being the foreign minister using the resources of his ministry to plug himself as the savior of SL, and somehow fight to get the preferences. You judge whether he deserves to win.

The blogger ends with a hope:

I hope common sense will prevail, and I pray the voter will remember not to vote for the person who bought his last meal, but the person who best can represent his or her interests in Parliament for six long years and not defect to another party!!!!

A concerned citizen at Groundviews calls this a pseudo democracy in Sri Lanka. The democracy and politics is not oriented to the rural people, who are forced to remain poverty stricken, marginalized and politically ill informed to exercise their democratic rights:

It is no secret that poverty and ignorance is a politically expedient condition, as in feudal times, to keep the masses in a state of subservience. By not playing a proactive role in advocacy and awareness building among the vast majority of rural polity who live in enforced ignorance, the moderates of this country have failed to uphold democracy. [..]

The current regime appears to be following in the footsteps of totalitarian regimes such as Burma, Iran, Libya, Russia and China who have taken advantage of similar conditions of rural poverty and ignorance in brain washing a captive polity in order to hold the nation in thrall. [..]

A politically passive and impoverished Sri Lankan polity has steadily paved the way, under consecutive regimes, towards a state of totalitarianism which has borne a despotic regime which recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.

The results were expected as the incumbent United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) is ahead with 117 seats (60% vote) and the close competitor is the opposition United National Front (UNF) with 46 seats and 30% vote. UPFA is expected to win at least half of the 45 results, which are yet to be declared. UNF has been demoralized by the arrest of its presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka and their popularity is waning.

The results also showed that the Tamils have less confidence in the majority Sinhalese government, reports Journalists For Democracy In Sri Lanka:

The president had campaigned in the Tamil heartland of Jaffna and Wanni with promises of billions of dollars to rebuild the regions worst affected by the long war with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

But his party failed to win a single Tamil district, with Tamil voters instead electing 12 MPs from the moderate Tamil National Alliance, which wants greater autonomy for the Tamil minority.

Lanka Rising posts a critical analysis of the results of the election. The blog also lists the ten top priorities of the Sri Lankan Government which includes “ensure law and order and equal opportunities for all”. However, without successfully engaging more and more Tamil minorities in active politics the goal will remain illusive and the divide will not be mended.

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