As Sri Lanka gears for presidential elections later this week on Thursday, there has been an increase in incidents of violence, amidst predictions of a win for the opposition, Forbes Magazine said in a recent report.
In an election report the Magazine said assailants shot and wounded three opposition supporters who were preparing a stage for Maithripala Sirisena, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s chief rival, on Monday, the final day of campaigning in Sri Lanka’s election, according to a media report.
“The men were hit in a drive-by shooting as they set up a podium for Sirisena to address a rally in the southern town of Kahawatte, about 80 miles from the capital Colombo, the report said. A ruling party office nearby was attacked soon after in what appeared to be a retaliatory strike.
“Sirisena has picked up the support of two additional minority parties in recent days, increasing his chances for a win, says political risk consultancy Eurasia Group in a note.
“The defections have weakened President Rajapaksa and political violence is likely to increase this week as he attempts to use the security forces to intimidate opposition voters,” the note says.
“Sure enough. Sporadic violence was reported in other parts of the island state over the past few days.
“Over the weekend a volley of shots were fired at a campaign meeting just after Sirisena had left the stage in his rural heartland home district, according to a Reuters report. The report added that two Election Commission officers were also attacked in the eastern port district of Trincomalee by backers of Rajapaksa’s party. Campaign for Free and Fair Election (CaFFE), a local poll monitor, told the news agency that it had received 157 complaints of violence and 1,201 violations of election law since Rajapaksa called for snap elections in November.
“The violence comes in the midst of a week that has seen Sirisena’s diverse coalition gain strength while Rajapaksa has lost ground, particularly among electorally-crucial minority groups. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the main Muslim party backing the president, defected to the opposition. In addition, Sirisena also won the formal support of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the main Tamil party. Rajapaksa could face further defections in the coming days as more niche parties dependent on official patronage opt to back the winning side, Eurasia Group noted.
“And just because campaigning is over, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the violence is over too.
“Eurasia Group predicts that Rajapaksa is likely to use security forces to suppress turnout in opposition and minority areas, which in turn will lead to more incidents of violence. “An attack that advertently or inadvertently injures Sirisena is a wildcard that could lead to more serious sustained political violence,” it says.
“Post-election, in order to keep his disparate coalition of ethnic, religious, Marxist, and center-right parties together, Sirisena would be under immense pressure to quickly fulfill his promise of political reform–which includes amending the Constitution, returning Sri Lanka to a full parliamentary system and holding fresh parliamentary elections in his first 100 days–Eurasia Group predicts.
“A Sirisena government, focused on political reform to restore a parliamentary system of government, would likely pursue populist rather than reformist economic policies, it says, predicting a negative macro business environment,” Forbes said in its report.