Harim Peiris

Political and Reconciliation perspectives from Sri Lanka

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The delusion of a Rajapakse come back and the general election stakes

Posted by harimpeiris on January 28, 2015


The delusion of a Rajapakse come back and the general election stakes

By Harim Peiris

(Published in The Island of 28th Jan 2015)

 

The new government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe has been proceeding without a major hiccup and the issue making the most news daily has been the ongoing revelations of corruption against the former Rajapakse regime and extending up to its highest levels. The most news worthy post election development was the collapse of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) into the lap of its longtime former general secretary, President Maithripala Sirisena.

Mahinda Rajapakse has delusions of making an immediate political comeback. Barely was the ink dry on the official president election results than he was visiting the SLFP office at Darley Road and summoning central committee meetings. Within forty eight hours or so of that meeting, the SLFP Chairmanship rested with President Sirisena.  Consequent to Maithripala Sirisena succeeding in securing the leadership and control of the SLFP, the balance of social and political forces in the country, essentially is a Maithripala Sirisena Administration, which is run by the UNP in association with other parties including the SLMC, the JHU and the early movers to Maithri within the SLFP. The rest of the SLFP are paying for their poor political judgment or lack of courage by sitting in opposition while supporting their new party leader’s Administration from outside the government. Given that the JVP and the TNA are also supporting the 100 day program, the government has solid support.

A delusion about a Rajapakse come back 

 

Looking at the political landscape one only sees the NFF of Wimal Weerawansa, the MEP of Dinesh Gunawardena for ethno nationalist reasons and the now largely irrelevant old left of Vasu, Dew and Tissa, for no apparent reason, still holding on loyally to the delusions of a political comeback at the general elections with Mahinda Rajapakse at the helm. There are multiple and almost insurmountable obstacles for this, which we shall briefly look at.

  1. Mahinda lost a nationwide poll

In what must be the most ungracious speech ever made welcoming a new Prime Minister, who after all did get the candidate his party backed elected president, MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena stated that Ranil Wickramasinghe was Prime Minister without having won a general election. True, but he forgot a bigger reality, that while the UNP led the NDF’s winning campaign, the real looser in the election was Mahinda Rajapakse and the politics of fear, authoritarianism, corruption and bad governance which he and sadly his extended family run government represented. With only 47% of the popular vote, a comfortable majority of the electorate voted against Mahinda and today we have the Maithri palanaye.

  1. A repeat of the 47% at a general election

Wimal Weerawansa, the politically orphaned leader of his small National Freedom Front (NFF) and possibly Dinesh Gunawardena, leader of the even smaller MEP have visions of Mahinda Rajapakse leading a charge of the light brigades and basically achieving a similar vote as the forthcoming general election and resulting in being the largest block, when the TNA and other constituent parts of the NDF contest the general elections separate from the UNP. There are several factors which mitigate against this scenario, which seemingly Wimal, Dinesh, Vasu and co have not taken into account.

  1. Mahinda is a rebel without a cause and a party  

Mahinda Rajapakse, at his zenith after the conclusion of the war, was clearly the most popular political leader in Sri Lanka. Even then though at the post war election of January 2010, fought on the basis of ending the war, his 57% of the popular vote could not match up to the 62% of the popular vote won by his predecessor in office, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. However Mahinda Rajapakse now has the ignominy of being the only executive president of Sri Lanka to have ever lost a presidential election. In every previous presidential election, the incumbent won and no sitting president was ever defeated at a re-election poll. Mahinda was so defeated. Having failed to retire from office at the end of two terms and loosing the unprecedented third term bid, the SLFP has dumped Mahinda Rajapakse as political leader. His reelection had no theme, other than fear mongering about minorities. The hope giving 47% which warms the cockles of the hearts of the diehards of the ancient regime, Wimal, Dinesh and co, was achieved with the support of the SLFP party machinery. The major obstacles for a Rajapakse comeback in opposition to Sirisena is the lack of a political party. The SLFP is with Sirisena.

  1. Having to run an opposition campaign

Furthermore, the Rajapakse’s are used to running national elections totally using the state machinery. As a former Chairman of Sri Lanka Rupavahini, it was deeply distressing to see the low depths to which the national broadcaster was forced into by the Rajapakse propagandists. Such tools, like the state media are no longer at the disposal of the Rajapakse’s and their dwindling band of never say die loyalists. There is no Samurdhi animators to distribute leaflets, no government money to fund the campaign and no state vehicles to be used in the campaign. Basil has taken wing, unlikely to return anytime soon.

  1. It is all about corruption

However, the real impediment to a Rajapakse return is that currently it is only a three weeks since the presidential election and the details and information on the massive corruption in the regime is still being collated and sorted out. Well before the general election, Mahinda Rajapakse, members of his clan in government and some acolytes and the inner coterie of his regime are going to be having to answer to the charges of massive, unprecedented corruption and abuse of power at the highest levels and the electorate will only reinforce the result they delivered on January 8th this year.

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