There is no doubt the UNP will get stronger in the coming months due to its apparent unity and better performance at the Uva Provincial Council elections held recently. The billion dollar question is whether it will be strong enough to defeat the President at the Presidential Election in the event it is held before April in 2015.The latest AFP news story says the presidential Elections will be held in the first week of January next year
Since of late the President and the government have been getting ready to face the future elections and win them again. A few days ago it launched the distribution of at least one hundred thousand motor bicycles to selected government employees for a pittance. They have to pay less than one fourth of the price in the open market. Employees of recently established Divi Neguma Department and Grama Seva officers whose servicesare sought by ‘the common man’ were among the beneficiaries of the motor bicycles. No government in the past gave even a push bicycle to government employees at such a concessionary price.
A fortnight ago the government launched a ‘ loan’ scheme through the Samurdhi Bank network. Under that scheme anybody who has an account at a Samurdhi bank can get a loan of Rs. fifty thousand on any pretext with a grace period of one year. After one year the loan has to be paid back with only 4% interest. A rumour is going round that the recipient of the loan will never have to pay the loan back. The Samurdhi employees of the banks are lamenting that this loan scheme will lead to the demise of the banks throughout the island.
It is obvious that the reduction of electricity tariff and fuel prices is no doubt, is another step taken by the government in preparation for the future elections expected to be held within the first three months of 2015.
It will be of no surprise if the government announces more relief to the ‘common man’ in the next budget. We can expect a considerable pay rice to the state sector employees and pensioners and a relief package to others through the forthcoming budget. The government seems to be doing whatever it can to win the future elections irrespective of its negative impact on the economy of the country.
Aftermath of the Uva Provincial council Elections we saw how UPFA thugs unleashed a terror campaign by attacking the UNPers and JVPers in a bid to demoralize the newly rejuvenated anti government forces. My belief is the pro-government thugs with the blessings of their bosses will launch an island wide unprecedented terror campaign throughout the future pre-election period in order to demoralize the activists of the anti-government political parties as the Ministers, MPs and their henchmen are to lose a ton of things in case the government and the President lose at the elections.
Under the above circumstances will Mr. Ranil Wicremesinghe be able to win at the Presidential Elections in case it is held within the first three months of 2015?
I highly doubt that the Uva results depict the picture of the whole country. We should not forget that though the UNP was able to bag the Badulla district it was unable to win the Monaragala district. It is the bitter truth the UNPers should not forget. And it has been unable to win a single provincial Council under Mahinda Rajapaksa administration. At grass root level it is so far thoroughly disorganized. Barring the last Badulla meeting the UNP has been unable attract a sizable crowd to its meetings held during the last few years. All the protest campaigns it launched in Colombo were a complete failure.
To win an election single handedly the UNP will need at least another one year in spite it has been able to forge a unity at the top level. If we go back to seventies we can recall how many years JR campaigned relentlessly to defeat the government of Sirima Bandaranaike. At least for a period of three years prior to the 1977 General Elections JR and his UNP conducted many successful protest campaigns throughout the country. JR was able to win in 1977 not only because the UNP was very strong at the grass root level but also because of the hunger the whole country underwent for a number of years during Sirima bandaranaike’s rule for which JR promised eight pounds of grain a week per family. In addition to that, the coalition partners of the SLFP ,namely the LSSP and the CP had deserted it by the time the General Elections came .
Mr. Ranil Wickemesinghe was able to form a government in December 2001 under different circumstances. The country was at war with the LTTE and the peace Chandrika promised at elections was no in sight. The Tigers had attacked the Katunayaka airport and the economy was in a shambles. The growth of economy was at minus 1.5. As the people were fed up with the endless war Ranil promised to bring peace to the country. Most importantly he had formed a Front with Ceylon Workers Congress and the Muslim Congress prior to the elections. As a political party then the UNP was much more organized than today and almost all the UNP veterans were with him.
I request the readers to ompare today’s UNP and the UNP in ’77 and 2001. Most of the big guns of the UNP who were with Ranil are now with the government and they will not desert the President unless they are well convinced that Mahinda’s days are numbered.
One has to accept that apparently President Mahinda Rajapaksha’s popularity is not much dented despite anti democratic actions and erosion of the independence of judiciary under his rule. It is true he is not as popular as before due mainly to nepotism, corruptions, bad governance ,less press freedom and inflation. The majority of the people are increasingly finding it difficult to survive due to skyrocketing cost of living. One of my friends who visited Uva during the pre-election days was told by a number of poor villagers that they would vote the UNP at the Provincial council elections but they would vote Mahinda at the Presidential Election as they could go out without fear of bomb explosions.
Before the next Presidential Election the President and the government will do whatever action that can be taken to reduce the cost of living. For example by the next budget it may do away with import levies which have been imposed on essential commodities. I do not wonder if the government decides to give a dole to the unemployed youths as their votes will be decisive at the next elections.
Therefore winning the Presidential Election in the near future by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe against Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot be expected unless a miracle happens. Hence what should be done by the UNP if it wants to defeat the President and come to power?
My conviction is Incumbent President can be defeated if a charismatic non party candidate contests the Presidential Election with the whole-hearted support of all the powerful political parties armed with a programme to solve at least a few urgent problems of the country within a period of one year .
As such the best option for Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP is giving leadership to form a Front of political parties with a view to prepare an action plan, a programme and to choose a common candidate such as Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike who can command the support of the majority of the voters at the next Presidential Election.
I believe the following should be included among others in the programme to be implemented by the ‘Common President’ once he/she comes to power.
- Formation of a National Government of all the political parties that have representatives in the Parliament for a period of one year.
- Relief to the common man by reducing prices of essential commodities immediately.
- Adoption of a new constitution which gives all the powers to the Parliament.
- Dissolution of the Parliament at the end of one year .
- Holding of new Parliamentary Elections and formation of a government.
Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe most probably can become the Prime Minister of the new government as the UNP will be able to win the majority of seats at the elections as it will be a very strong political party by the end of another year.
Will Ranil implement the above strategy or similar strategy or contest the Presidential Election as the candidate of the UNP and commit hara-kiri ? Let us wait and see.
*P.Bertie Ranaweerage – Former president of Ceylon Teachers’ Union