20 June, 2024


Do Local Government Elections Really Matter?

By Vishwamithra

Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature made them.~Bertrand Russell

Thirty five thousand (35,000) candidates are vying for their places in three hundred and forty one (341) local bodies in the forthcoming local government elections scheduled for February 10. It’s a mind-boggling number when taken in isolation. But in the context of the new socio-political culture that has embraced the nation and especially with a select gallery of politicians during the last twenty years, 102 candidates per every local body does not seem to be a staggering number.

The Thirteenth Amendment to our Constitution that gave birth to one remarkable dynamic with its own inherent vigor is the frequent recurrence of elections at non-Presidential/Parliamentary levels. For all politicians and their cronies and specifically for those who occupy the Opposition benches, these elections do matter. Their very survival in politics is directly or indirectly related to the results of such local elections. For government benches, they are more of a source of irritation than a so-called game changer. Very few game-changing by-elections or local body-elections had been held in the past. What immediately comes to mind is the by-election for Kalawewa electorate held prior to the General Elections of 1977. Another noteworthy one was the Provincial Council elections held for Uva Province just before the last Presidential Elections in 2015.

Kalawewa by-election in 1974: Kalawewa by-election, apart from its eventual results in which the Opposition party, the United National Party (UNP) gained a parliamentary seat they lost in the 1970 General Elections, brought forth another aspect of politics- strategic thinking and action- which is totally absent in today’s political amphitheater. J R Jayewardene was the Leader of the Opposition and the UNP at the time. In his untiring efforts to get a ‘win’ as against a ‘loss’ for his p[arty, J R in his ultimate strategic thinking and wisdom concocted an inscrutable strategy, not only to confuse his opponents in the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government, but more so to find out as to who is for and against his planning inside the UNP: Just before he undertook an overseas visit, J R floated the idea that if Anura Bandaranaike was the SLFP-led coalition, he would not field a candidate and allow Anura B to walk into Parliament uncontested. His contention was that the coalition government was overtaken by ultra-left segment of the country (Ilangaratne, N M, Colvin, Kueneman and the likes) it was necessary to countervail that imbalance by infusing a right-winger such as Anura Bandaranaike who was close to Mrs. B into the government ranks. This unconventional tactic created the desired effect among the then government groups. The left-wing parties led by N M and Kueneman would not entertain the idea of Anura Bandaranaike, a known right-winger coming into parliament. To cap it off, Mrs. Bandaranaike’s deafening silence on the matter did not help them either.

This strategy of J R also had the other desired effect of exposing the ‘anti-J R’ clique within the UNP into open. Niyathapala and Suriyapperuma led a losing battle. At the end, Anura B did not get nomination yet the stark differences within the coalition were exposed and the UNP won the by-election which was a harbinger of the future demise of the coalition. On the other hand, the non-conforming members of the UNP too, through their own moronic action, committed political suicide. J R with one stone killed many a bird. Such shrewd political craft is not evident today. Sadly, on either side of aisle, such clever and innovative strategizing has become a relic in today’s politics.

Uva PC Elections in 2014: A close second to such a strategy was when Ranil Wickremesinghe, a devout disciple of JRJ, persuaded the then Member of Parliament, Harin Fernando to resign his seat and contest the Uva Provincial Council elections in 2014, just prior to the 2015-Presidential Elections. Although Harin Fernando was not successful at the 2014-Uva PC elections, the results showed that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s coalition was reaching its last lap. What eventually gave reason for Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Bandaranaike on the political side and Maduluwawe Sobhitha on the religious cum civil organizations side the opportunity to persuade Maithripala Sirisena to leave the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA)-led government and contest as an Opposition-led candidate against Mahinda and gain a monumental victory at the 2015-Presiential Elections.

In the context of these limited examples of local elections having an effect on the succeeding major elections, Presidential and Parliamentary, the forthcoming local elections scheduled for February 10, 2018, would have a trifling effect on the 2020 Presidential Elections. Remember, the Presidential Elections scheduled for 2020 would be for a President who will be stripped of executive powers to very considerable level. And another two full years of to go, that election would give voters sufficient space to remember or forget the results, depending on the outcome.

Nevertheless, the effect of the Mahinda factor, which has manifested itself in the form of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), is much awaited. Its declared leader is Professor G L Peiris who was hardly a factor in his own Ministry of External affairs when he held the Cabinet portfolio in the Mahinda Rajapaksa government. Yet the genesis of the SLPP is traced to the debunked ‘mastermind’ of elections, Basil Rajapaksa. Basil Rajapaksa today is a much maligned character. Allegations about corruption, the sheer arrogance of power and callous disregard for basic civility to his subordinates have marginalized this once powerful politico to the dustbin of politics and the money that he’s alleged to be throwing around to muster support among the true SLFPers has become subject of many a rumor in powerful circles in Colombo. The ‘bunker mentality’ that he and his cronies are displaying today has grown exponentially in that, those who try to emerge from the debris of the 2015-defeat have themselves cocooned in a closely-knit political comfort zone. In light of these countless charges of corruption and nepotism, the efforts made by the Rajapaksa clan to align the public thinking along a nationalist paradigm seemed thoroughly phony and dishonest. Subordination of his educational stature by a learned man like Professor G L Peiris is only one such example.

Against such a confusing backdrop, some political pundits are making an attempt to portray the current ‘election-environment’ as a one that would be consequential in shifting the fundamental thinking of the masses towards a sea change in public perception. Their wishful thinking is bordering on being overly optimistic at best and delusional at worst. Basil Rajapaksa’s prediction that he would win more than 90% of the local elections is wedged in that boneheaded thought.

Aside from these fraudulent political theories, history has shown us that government parties do not alter their normal course of behavior as a matter of response to by-election or local election results. Their palpable stance is that they were elected to power on a given agenda and that any obstruction to that agenda is simply that, an obstruction. This government, made up of the UNP and Maithripala Sirisena’s SLFP, too would not alter that political truism. When in power, the psyche of political parties is totally different from that when they are out of power. I just returned from a tour of the districts of Colombo and Kegalle. Avissawella is bordering on Kegalle district on south-east side of Colombo district. As it stands today, Dehiowita and Deraniyagala in Kegalle district are as sure as Avissawella in Colombo to return the UNP as the winning party. All three Pradesheeya Sabhas are not yet decided on who should be second and third. There seems to be great uncertainty about that. However, conventional wisdom dictates that it would be quite hard to beat a well-established party like the SLFP whose leader is the President who was elected by the votes of the UNP and an overwhelming majority of the Tamil and Muslim minorities. The SLFP might still be having its rural party structures intact. In which case, it will be an extraordinary task for any political entity, whether led by Mahinda Rajapaksa or his siblings, to relegate the SLFP to a subordinate position from a totally new party like SLPP.

At the same time, unlike the USA where separation of powers is well defined and established among the Presidency, House of Representatives and the Senate, people tend to vote for the same party that is in power. As far as the average voter goes, proximity to power and money changes everything. Politicians invariably succeed in brainwashing the gullible. When such brainwashing is clothed in the changing shades of decaying cultural values, when the average voter too is identified with those values, the elector and elected become one. It is indeed a frightening reality. This is when and where democracy becomes a mockery of human failings. The bright and intelligent begin questioning it. The wise accept it as the best among bad alternatives.

The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com  

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Latest comments

  • 3


    this man with branded head should be of Rajapakshe sons.

    Why the buggers fooled the youth that way is my big question. How would they answer to them when questioning about THADJUDEEN killing.
    Or other high crimes perpectrated by Rajapakshe goons ?

  • 3

    The writer has misreading of post-colonial political history or not yet that read properly by ground reality of Political Parties, Classes and Persons were in leadership how , they run day to day politics in power and out of the power since last 70 years since 1948?

    This most paramount issues governances of Democratic a country rule by verdicts of people mandate of a nation . What ever the difference of an opinions of political ideologies we are in path of Democracy is/was an ours fundamental path and model of system of governances by consent of people verdicts. That is our base of democracy since even under British occupation and her colonial politics of House of Windsor which that we have gain that Universal Franchised 1931.That is historical truth has goes to 86 years old.
    After an Independence ours nation democracy order had been attempted to undermine by Political-Military coupe in 1962 and 1966 was failed.

    Hence 1971 April insurrections of JVP and 1988/89/90 JVP another insurrections was crushed by two governments has lost over thousands of youth in south of Lanka. Which was political anarchism by JVP terrorism. Its undermined very foundation democracy right of voters .

    What about LTTE Tamil Eealm has launch unjust war by Tamil Terrorist . The so-called was pioneering concepts by Tamil political classes of that ideology by TNA, TULF and FP for Separated land for Tamil rough State in North -east; the claim by Tamil nationalist over several years since after an Independent of Ceylon in 1948.
    The taken up gun rule politics was not that only baby of LTTE, but in reality of Eealm was the products of Tamil Political classes of Petty bouegesiose of Nationalist .By and large that Tamil-chauvinist demanded and claim for Tamil speaking of state in North-east Island of Sri Lanka the place for Tamil speaking in World in without of Tamil Nadu of India?

  • 1

    These men should be interviewed. none of them have brains but the nature of being servile to Pohottuwa party.

    People wake up, we dont want murderers to return to power.

    Had proper systems worked, Rajapakshes should have been in jails today – their new year they should have celebrated in their cells in PRISONS.

  • 5

    The current Yahapalana government of Ranil and My3 postponed elections purposely due to their unpopularity; they will loose 50% of the total votes because of this arrogant and undemocratic decision.
    Don’t point the finger at others and try to give silly excuses. That adds fuel to fire of anger. We all know who planned it and who did it. People have decided ‘enough is enough’. A government should not postpone elections and deprive the people of their basic rights. That’s destructive and we would see the results of this destruction on Feb 10.

  • 1

    Sri lankan journalists are opinion -wise bankrupt and are biased. why they do not talk the sysgtem and instead talk the past or the issues. Why do not you people discuss about correction factors to the system. See, How Basil is talking about coming back. Do you think Maithripala Is a saint. Why Ranil is hanging there like a leech. rich newyork state, twice the area of Sri lanka has one govt and two federal politician. Why Sri lankan parliament is a family enterprise. See how many families and children of former politicians are there. Are they all visionaries by birth. there are so many things to talk instead discuss all ancient BS.

  • 4

    LG elections matter only when the side you support is sure to win. They don’t really matter only when you are sure your side is going to lose. One does not need the brains of Einstein to figure which side you support. It seems to be the losing side. So elections really don’t matter, do they you Yahapalana apologist,!
    You think we are dumb asses.?

  • 1

    Ranil a devote disciple of JRJ?

    Was it from JRJ that he learnt his role in the pogrom of 83? Or was it from Cyril Matthew that he learn that from?

    Can the author enlighten us?

  • 1

    Vishwamithra asks “Do local government elections really matter?”
    Of course they do!
    During January early February 2018, in 341 locations an average of 102 household linen will be washed in public. This will give an insight as to what motivates the politician. Serving people or themselves? Who talks nonsense and so on.

    • 1

      Talking about washing dirty linen in public,the late Lasantha wickremetunge was a great practitioner of that, and I am told is a traditional family occupation of theirs.

  • 1

    Each time back in home country – every 6 months I get to hold chats with all walks of people. I am sure, these men that would voluntarily be ready to get branded shoudl have been bribed by Rajapakshes – by the money that they publicly robbed out in tsunami and other cases.

    This is very curseful. Why people to be fooled this way can have long term consequences as is the case in North Korea.

    We perfectly know – had the MR et al been clean, nothing would become to be worst to the public as is the case today. They looted to the core at the time, they left behind. But to enjoy impunity mafia king remains as a MP in parliament. General public and gulliable masses should well be aware of the bits not to get hurt further.

    EC has made it very clear that former leader has been lying about distribution of goods by the current govt. It was just one incident by which some reliefs wer to be distributied – but that was okeyed by him should not be interprited as such.

    Now the intoxicated former man with his over 40 thieves are sinking in his ship..

    Wait and see how people would treat them. God bless srilanka

  • 1

    Unlike Vishwamithra I have no clue as to who will win most of the local bodies. UNP seems to enjoy a strategic advantage due to the split in SLFP. However there is a huge dissatisfaction among all layers of society (I have been talking to top business people as well as ordinary people on the street) of yahapalana performance including that of “Mr Clean”. This will certainly impact the outcome of the results. If SLPP manages to harness this dissatisfaction it will jolt the existing political balance significantly. Do the results matter? Yes they are……….A strong showing by SLPP will definitely undermine official SLFP and will push SLFP politicians into survival mode. They will either have to join UNP to retain perks or join SLPP bandwagon or bring Rajapakses back to SLFP fold on Rajapakse’s terms. That would be the end of current unity govt. In any case we are sure to witness a fascinating contest.

  • 0

    Before voting it matters to all parties . After results , it matters only to the
    winner and for losers it is just local election ! We had a time local election
    was just local but it has now been made a rehearsal for the general or
    presidential election whichever closer ! Kind of public opinion on both the
    government and the opposition . And it is going to be special this time for
    JVP and SLPP . It looks taking the full shape of a general election . I put my
    full weight to see it as a test to the JVP popularity . FOR ME , IT IS NOTHING
    ADMINISTRATION . MARA family vs his one time general secretary , UNP
    vs My3 and MARA and JVP vs everybody else . Let us wait and see what
    the paradise wants ! Decades ago major parties had fought through
    independent proxies and after the executive power , parties got into the
    fray !

  • 0

    when all three levels are functioning, Sri lanka has one politician per every 2350 of population. What do they do. Take political decisions. Then why a PResident, PM, Cabinet ministers, Provincial CMs. Why do we need 342 municipalties ?. Why do we need 9 provincial govts. Sumanthiran is a national list MP for Yapanaya. Assuming they do not have any problems with the religion based conflicts, why Sumathiran is staying two houses Colombo. One May owned by a former VVIP politician rented to the govt and govt has subsidized it for Sumanthiran. IS it because, he wrote about Orumitta nadu ?

  • 0

    Why do we need 45 failed politicians as national list MPs. Most are cabinet ministers. What is the contribution of 94 MPS those who failed O/L ? How about known thieves and cheaters who are in the other group. SO, it is easy to get rid of 125 MPs.

  • 0

    IT is better to vote JVP instead of voting UNP or any in Pohottuwa.

  • 0

    The Lankan voters are, mostly, virtual cattle who should be fed on punnakku. Can one imagine an electorate even thinking of voting in a lot that not only emptied the countries near-bankrupt treasury by carefully engineered swindling; where “the self-claimed known devil” tricked the gullible electorate to allow a 3+ term. These established rogues our suckers can be fooled all the time. 98% literate, my foot!!!! When JR hinted he might to go for the 3rd innings, after developing the country from the lows of Mrs.B’s 7 years, the country was against this very thought. Rightly so. JR didn’t even put the thought forward. He just felt the waters.

    While the numerically smaller middle class exercise their votes intelligently the vast majority is swayed by anti-minority prejudice, foolishly buy the fib Buddhism is in peril and are influenced as usual by the bath-gotta+Rs.1,000 per person bribe. Today the politically powerful activists in the Buddhist clergy and sections of the politicised armed forces are for regime change. The Yahapalanya lot, meanwhile, have shot themselves on the foot with the mix of blue and green rogues within it. This further confuses the more intelligent neutral voter. Though this is not General but PC Elections there is some significance here in judging the mood of the country.

    Will Sri Lanka miss the bus this time as they did in 1970 after Dudley’s regime re-built the country during 1965-70. Singapore’s LKY was absolutely right. He warned his people to take a lesson from the wrong path the Lankan electorate took. The smarter Singaporean voter took his advise. Singapore came from 3rd world to the first. There is nothing to suggest LKY stole and hid billions of dollars for his children – which he well could have.

    A.D.J. Perera

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