27 May, 2022


A Variegated Analysis Of JVP’s Performance

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Many, this correspondent included, expected the JVP to poll well and win 10 to 15 parliamentary seats – some people said 20+ even when they were sober! On votes, yes expectations have been borne out (544,000, its second highest since 815,000 in 2001). On seats we were wrong because of inattention to nitty-gritty details; intra JVP-UNP swings, peculiarities of the district-wise PR system, and UPFA abstentions. I will make amends for this lapse and present a more informed picture of the JVP’s setback. A fuller analysis would need to be three times as long.

I use rounded numbers and percentages throughout this essay because there are many numbers to present and resorting to the umpteenth decimal will confuse without adding value. Hence 9.29% becomes 9%, 11.78% becomes 12% and I will write 549,148 as 550,000. Beware then that things may seem not to add up to 100%. Or a 10% swing from A to C and a 5% swing from B to C may appear as 14% increase in C. But rest assured you are losing nothing of importance and gaining in clarity and simplicity.

Let me first dispose of a macro item; the JVP polled 544,000 while UNF, UPFA, JVP and TNA (the parties entitled to seats) together polled 10,969,000. Had there been a nationwide, not a district-wise PR system the JVP’s 5% would have earned it 10 seats. I am not making any such proposal – 20A will put an entirely new mixed FPTP+PR system in place – my point is that the JVP’s performance in total votes was not much below expectations; seats disappointed. In 2001 it polled 9% nationally and got 16 seats under a district-PR system. (FPTP means first-past-the-post and PR is proportional-representation).

Nitty-gritty numbers

This macro picture tells us little other than what has been sketched in the above paragraph. It is detailed district-level and polling-division (bigger than a FPTP seat) analysis that conveys valuable information. Polling-division level analysis is too detailed and the nuggets it carries help micro strategy – useful for candidates but not of interest for the general reader. District-level data is politically informative for everybody.

JVP Anura TilvinIt would be cumbersome to record all districts and I confine myself to a sample laid out in simple tables. The Northern and Eastern Provinces and the Nuwara Eliya and Puttalam polling-divisions are of no interest to this study. For obvious reasons the JVP stands summarily rejected by Tamils, Ceylon and Upcountry, and it has no clue how to get itself out of this bind, but that’s a topic for another day. This study pertains to overwhelming Sinhalese provinces and districts though their Tamil and Muslim populace conditioned the outcome in several places.

An important caveat is that nothing can be learnt from the JVP’s electoral performance in two parliamentary elections in 1994 and 2004 where it was the ally of the larger SLFP. JVP candidates did well as SLFP voters, impressed by its probity, ticked preferences in its favour. It rode piggy-back to win 39 seats in 2004 while also beating a pro-war tom-tom to a racist tune. The alliance with Fonseka in 2010 was a disaster; the feeble Democratic National Alliance secured 7 seats, four of them JVPers. No useful comments about future trends can be made from the 2010 elections. The era prior to 1990 (Wijeweera times) is a different national era and JVP vintage and has little relevance to this analysis. I am satisfied that the best perspective comes from comparing 17 August with the 8 January. Sirisena threw in his lot with the UNP-GG, so the two elections are politically aligned. Comparison requires some mental jugglery as one poll was parliamentary, the other presidential, but with a little number massaging it can be done.

Ok lets dig into a case study, Kalutara District. January 8 poll: valid votes = 85% of which MS got 46% and MR 53%. On 17 August: valid votes = 80% of which UNP got 44% , UPFA 49% and JVP 6%. Since the voter lists were the same it is exact to say that 5% (55,000) more people did not vote. It would be convenient, but incorrect, to speculate that 2% of MS/UNP and 4% of MR/UPFA voters crossed to the JVP to give it 6%. But no, not so simple, this is not what happened. The 4% decline in MR/UPFA poll is made up of two parts, one part abstentions disoriented by corruption charges, which the JVP did more than anyone else to highlight and those confused by the disorder in the SLFP. The other part were people who switched their votes from MR/UPFA to UNF or JVP. It would take too long to explain, but of the drop in MR/UPFA votes between the elections, about half abstained and the other half crossed-over in about equal numbers to the UNP or the JVP. In addition the visible decline in UNP votes (compared to January 8 for MS) includes the JVP core separating itself out and returning home.

I have analysed 15 districts in the south (omitting Nuwara Eliya and Puttalam) and the pattern is nearly identical ; actually it is eerie how similar the swing, not the absolute numbers, are whether the district is Galle, Matara, Colombo, Gampaha, Anuradhapura or Pollonaruwa. Information overkill serves no purpose so I provide simple data for these six districts only.

KDEverywhere the story is the same; (i) the percentage poll declined by 4% to 5%; (ii) the swing out of MS/UNP and MR/UPFA seems to match the votes polled by the JVP; but don’t be fooled by this seeming equality. A more complex multi-way abstentions and swing process was in the works as I explained for Kalutara. The UNF-GG must thank the JVP for enhancing UPFA abstentions and causing a 1.1 million decline in its absolute vote compared to MR’s on 8 January; and for example in Ratnapura and Kegalle Districts it declined by 56,000 and 51,000, respectively; the UNP vote in these districts hardly budged compared to MS’s January poll.

Anecdotal evidence

I am a one-man show with zilch resources, not an NGO with a multitude of bodies rushing over land and ocean without rest filling forms and switching on tape-recorders. But a few of the fast declining grey cells still seem to be ticking and careful listening and probing of anecdotes can point to reliable conclusions quicker than the multitudinous NGO throng can fathom. I have in mind three questions that have been asked in the aftermath of the JVP’s disappointing electoral performance.

  1. Has the JVP switched from its plebeian ideology and origins to a more middle-class support and intellectual domain and become alienated from its historical roots?
  2. Did many people who liked how the JVP was getting about its business and intended to vote for it, pullout at the last moment and vote UNF so as not to “Waste a vote”? A reverse-MR syndrome: “Defeating MR is so important; vote even for the bloody UNP and get it done”.
  3. Has the JVP reached its limits of growth on its current trajectory of stand-alone growth?

Space permits only brief answers to these questions. I relied on data as well as conversations conducted last week, but to keep it brief only conclusions are reported below. For convenience, let me first offer one word answers to the three questions: (i) Mainly but not entirely No, (ii) Yes, (iii) Yes.

The reason I reckon the JVP did not lose its plebeian base is because it held on to 10% to 12% in locations like Tissamaharama, Tangalle and Beliata, and 8% in places like Mineriya. However in the more remote locations of the NCP, Uva and Sabaragamuva it polled below 5%. Interestingly its vote was higher in urbanised locations such as Anuradhapura East (10%), Gampaha (9%), Matara town (9%), Galle town (8%); it did better in the principal provincial towns than in the remoter hinterland. Anyway middle-class (petty-bourgeois) as opposed to peasant power has been a feature of the JVP base. Another feature is that it drew a high postal vote in all districts; 14% in Matara and Hambantota, 12% in Colombo District, 11% in Gampaha District, 10% in Badulla and more than 7% in many other districts. Postal votes were 4 to 6% higher than ordinary poll percentage in all districts. This is proof of a loyal trade union base.

The Yes reply to (ii) is anecdotally justified by the intensity of ‘Please don’t waste an anti-MR vote on the JVP’ pressure. My appeal for a second JVP seat in Colombo and Gampaha and a seat in Matara and Monaragala, which calculations now show would have cost the UNF two not four seats, is manifestly justified in hindsight. Finally, the important question for the future is (iii). The JVP is not young, it is nearly half-a-century old; in anthropomorphic terms it is middle-aged. It is apparent now that as a solo dancer it will not grow beyond a 10-15% catchment. It has to nurture a broad left and democratic alliance to break out of this trap. I have been saying this till I am hoarse; the JVP takes no notice; it never will.

A darkening cloud is a possible formal or informal split in the SLFP with the MR faction forming an alliance with Wimal, Dinesh and the Dead Left, say under some name like UPFA-2. This will be the main opponent of the ‘National Government’ (NG) and can muster the numbers to assume Leadership of the Parliamentary Opposition. Its programmatic rallying cry will be racism. It is speculative to look far ahead but if you forgive speculation, it is possible that the NG-combo (including the pro-NG SLFP) and UPFA-2 will be the principal contenders in the 2020 elections.

In this, albeit somewhat speculative, emerging scenario, the JVP’s reluctance to incubate a left and democratic alliance and its penchant, instead, for playing with itself, is suicidal and politically criminal.

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Latest comments

  • 2

    I cannot argue with anything that you’ve got to say.

    That said, it seems like the JVP is the only light at the end of the tunnel that the UNP and SLFP, in their many manifestations, have (again) created for this country.

    The simple question is, “How do we convince the JVP to change course from some of its politically suicidal principles and impulses and provide us with the alternative that this country needs and deserves? Would more active participation in their affairs – if they are prepared to accept such as you – be a beginning? After all, the involvement of Mr. Mayadunne, retired Auditor General, with the JVP, no matter how brief it may end up being, suggests that there is room for the involvement of those outside the hardcore doctrinaire element that appears, hitherto, to run the JVP’s affairs.

  • 2

    Don’t be fooled thinking there were 1.1 million voters of UPFA stayed home disappointed. the 1.1 million or a larger proportion of that was illegal Votes (hora Chanda ) that they could not do this time as they were not in power

    • 1

      Ellakollage Appachchi:
      I believe you have a point because I do recall someone with expertise in the area making out a case that there could not have been as many people as the registers claimed there were for the last Presidential election and that there had been “fiddling” on an industrial scale at the time, something that wasn’t possible in the General Election.

  • 1

    Dear Prof. David,

    that way of comparing results does provide useful insights. I must confess I haven’t read carefully enough – how much there is to read now-a-days!

    So MaRa has clearly lost support. Plonnaruwa? Did the UPFA actually have a strong Maithri supporter who attracted votes? Contradicting that view is the fact that Wasantha Senanayake (who tested the waters for Maithri a week before the latter had his hopper dinner with NaRa) actually migrated there and did exceptionally well.

  • 2

    I tend to agree with your concluding sentence. The JVP should learn from the positive aspects of the winning UNFGG over the seemingly invincible Mahinda and his coalition in the form of UPFA. If the JVP decides to continue to stand alone it would hardly make any progress. Some of the ‘old left’ elements in the opposition are planning to unite. Why cannot the JVP take a cue from that and think seriously of a genuine, progressive and broad based ( meaning inclusive of minority aspirations) alliance for real progress?

    Sengodan. M

  • 1

    I agree that the JVP would need to re-brand itself as a party for the underclass, regardless of ethnicity and religion. They have a good case to be made in this neo-liberal, pro-capitalist world, as is seen in the success of the 99% campaign in the US. That campaign portrays the rich enjoying the major gains of the new “gilded age”, while 99% of the population suffer the consequences of technological advances, outsourcing and salary stagnation.

    I think in the context of contemporary Sri Lanka, the youth of the North are probably the most vulnerable for manipulation by malicious groups. JVP could reach out to these youngsters with concrete projects to help them secure good employment and prospects to improve their lot in life, instead of waiting for hand outs from relatives abroad or the government.

    • 1

      Hail to thee, sinhalese buddhist, thou kindred spirit and true humanist. If we can get our act together, and knock out (no, that’s too violent an act for us to perform, isn’t it?) Gnanasara and his horde of barbarians who have distorted the simple yet profound message of Gauthama Buddha, then we will be able to convince the Tamil speakers that we are with them in our respective journeys through Samsara.

      Conversion should not be our aim, although the existence of a few more learned Buddhists among Tamil speakers would help. Most followers of “Popular Buddhism” (starting with MaRa) in any case flock to kovils to bribe the many Hindu deities! Let’s hope the Republicans are once more defeated in America: Christian evangelism (what choice have they got since educated Westerners have abandoned theism?) pose a far greater threat to the Third World than Hindu myths. However, one still has to shudder at the blood lust of ISIS.

      All my outpourings may not be quite consonant with what you say, or what Prof. David stands for, but I’m pretty sure that this will not run counter to your outlook.

  • 1

    The “percentages” and “numbers” can be summarized in favour or against the trends in voting by the Sri Lankans. The fact is contradicting all the analyses and opinion surveys JVP could not secure the “Popular” support that it expected. Why? As I said in another comment, in my opinion : (1) this election was held too close to the Presidential election held on January 8th and the MR camp was still licking the wounds inflicted upon it; (2) The new Government established under UNP Ranil along with the President’s blessings could not or did not have sufficient time to address some of the glaring corruption and swindling of public funds during the period from 2010 to 2014 by the MR regime. (3)The people had no chance of learning what had happened during that period and the slogan that MR camp carried that all those allegations were nothing but “Mud Slinging” and “Pattapal Boru” (Bogus) got implanted in their minds. (4) The “Stop MR Come Back” camp wanted “Any Force”, capable in their own minds that can defeat “MR Come Back”.(5) JVP although showed its force in the dispatch of “Facts and Figures” in a very forceful way; could not provide that “Sharp Edged” tool to convince the mass voter base, because they, the JVP themselves were campaigning publicly to hold on to a “OPPOSITION”, that which the “Stop MR Come Back” did not want at this stage. (6) The JVP too was insistent on holding election as early as end of April, without realizing that the people wanted some “FEELING” of net returns from the January 8th election for which JVP too contributed to a larger degree. (7) Even the JVP started criticizing the
    Yahapalanaya” activities thus creating and confirming that they are only there to “criticize” but not to “get through” some improvements in the life of the people.

    However, JVP must not give up or stand to join hands with other much “TAINTED” political forces with a view to win in the future. It is rather better “Go Alone” and show their capabilities in governance while being in the Opposition even with the number six they have at present; because the much larger numbers in the opposition would not be able to carry out their functions in the future. I believe, if the “Investigations” and “Inquiries” are conducted in the proper manner some of the so called “Stalwarts” sitting their would definitely lose even the very seats they are occupying and would have to forgo even “civic rights” in addition to make good the losses to the Public funds. That is the “Opportunity” the JVP must grab in the long run and create a situation of them being an ALTERNATIVE and tell the PEOPLE “Did we not tell you and that is what we were fighting for”.

  • 0

    The crux of matter is JVP 1965 was very inception not that accepts secular democracy of pre-colonial and pre-capitalist of neo-liberal political structure of pre-mature democracy state.
    It was part of anarchism by JVP in politically that as similar as Trotskyism that theory guided by LSSP since 1935 of served purposed for politics of bourgeoisie reformism and Parliamentary democracy in Sri lanka. That was not central task of Proletariat adopted by left party and mode of thinking of Marxist party of Left.

    Both of JVP and LSSP that ignore complex of class struggle in the National democratic revolution and its task led by proletariat class and its party.

    What happen is its task of past colonial liberation – Ceylon form British Anglo-Saxon domination ended with tragedy in 1948.
    Well the Bourgeois revolution turn in hands of Neo Liberal class in power of UNP since 1948.

    The tragedy of the revolution task of bourgeoisie era and its revolution is still incomplete and unfinished by UNP and until SLFP led CBK’s nepotism of Feudal type of family rule of politics, not that democratic politics.

    The unity and diversity of nation discarded by UNP and SLFP-CBK leadership until 2005.

    Hundred thousands of people deaths and civil war came into being and LTTE ruthless Tamil terrorist transmigration of a war colossal order was initiated by Tamil political class back by TNA, TULF and FP.

    The partition of war by Tamil political class was encourage by British colonial masters, its support by US and Western camp. By knowing or unknowing CBK led SLFP that was unconditionally back the war. Needless to say CBK led SLFP turn into trap hand of politics of UNP Western agenda.

    Bourgeois revolution become more complex stage, at once that JVP did not understood of task of party and class of Proletariat.

    While abandoned Revolutionary task of bourgeoisie by JVP, and not that committed to Left’s visionary to long struggle for democratic task and its revolution is not that political agenda of JVP.

    Its role is absolutely central task to be realization of the idea of Proletariat class in Sri Lankan in today new reality, totally discarded by current and past leadership of JVP.

    Why is that? JVP was very inception anarchist party, its denied role of bourgeois revolution and well without class ideology Marxism-Leninism. JVP mixed task and methods of struggle at once, is part and parcel politics of anarchism every nook and corner of revolutionary adventurisms in many part of Globe politics.

    JVP direct aim at “Socialist Revolution” by Wijeweera combined with armed violence and sporadic action to take over the state power by overnight. That is not the principle class interest of Sri Lankan proletariat.

    Facts remain struggle for democracy in politically economically and socially need contributed the most urgent task liberating millions of people from bourgeoisie bondage and foreign hegemonies of domination.

    JVP is even not near to that wining 6 seats in Parliament 2015 August 17th. The politics of balance of power has change the emerging nations playing vital role politics of new democracy JVP is far from realized new reality of world order.

    Indian is become emerging country with complex conditions of democracy, still not running full secular democracy.

    Unity and diversity of Republic of India is ours vital interest of democracy and Territorial Integrity and sovereignty of Sri lanka.
    The second partition Indian in south, will great distress to region and as well as its democracy structure.

    China is leading economy second to US-GDP ,but still her market socialist economy playing secondary role of OLD Global order.

    New World order has visible time being, but its struggle for democracy is long one to be overcome. Indeed nations of BRICS are lending financial order has been set up ,but still in infant stage of economy development. Emerging people’s democracy pave the way for national integration of various ethnics and religious of nationalities of Sri lanka. Indian and China become our dearest and nearest friendly countries and People of Sri lanka.

    We Sri Lankan needs the people of India and China’s their moral and physical support form largest two nations to be assist perfect and redress ours system democracy in an Island.

  • 1

    JVP comes across as a party of political revolutionaries who shout slogans and criticize others while doing nothing. Like the dead left (Modawanse, Dinesh, Dried Cucumber, Bandula, Tissa V et al)they excel in the same way as leeches on animals or fungus growing on trees but are unable to survive on their own. Same way Modawansa is preying on the SLFP.

    These political revolutionary theories are basically dead in the face of the new world order of Egalitarianism, Human Rights and Democracy. Divisions based on caste, creed, class, race and religion do not work in multicultural, multiracial, multireligious societies.

  • 0

    Jesus Man! Can’t you get to the point in 2 paragraphs! Take a journalism writing course and spare us the tangents!

  • 0

    Professor, that old chestnut, when elephants clash mice get trodden on’ comes to mind. The snappy voter went for the jugular. No protest vote to allow a few mp’s to clog up the works. This was for real. In any case the JVP story, as with all leftist parties, is so yesterday. The trouble these days is that downtrodden are getting so aspirational. What to do?

  • 0

    Kumar is at it again, mixing up the accepted sequence of scientific methodology – observation, formation of a theory – verification by further experimentation and prediction. In this case, true to his style, he has formed a theory in his mind and trying to fit the known observations and data to his theory. Of course he has completely ignored the all-important 3rd phase.

    I know him well as a lecturer in electrical engineering at the Efac (Peradeniya). At one time I remember him writing down a mass of CEB generation figures on the blackboard and us meticulously copying them. What all this data was supposed to mean, I do not know and I have a suspicion that neither did he. The problem with lecturers like him was the lack of field experience and lots and lots of theory and math. He was extremely good in maths but I wonder, whether he has ever gone through a menial task such as rewinding a motor.

    In engineering you will end up with disaster if you do not have the right experience and indulge in flights of fantasy but in politics you can probably do that and hide your failures and blame others.

    Already someone has offered an alternative and more plausible theory- large scale voting fraud in the presidential elections, which did not happen in the parliamentary elections. Next time Kumar comes out with such analysis he should come out with a theory and a prediction before the elections (or any other event) that may then be tested after the event. Then perhaps, I will take him more seriously.

  • 0

    What’s with TNA’s 16 seats and JVP’s 6 seats?

    What’s with TNA having 14 districts and JVP having 4?

    Representation should have been at national level, and not at hamlet level. Now this I call one hell of a hocus-pocus Jilmart to bluff the polity.

    They neatly gerrymandered seats in alphabetic order, rather than as provinces, to suit Western Interests!

    (section: District results for the 2015 Sri Lankan parliamentary election)

    • 0

      Not a peep! Hello! Is anyone out there?

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