After the elections in the Southern and Western Provinces in March, it is believed that the government is going to dissolve the Uva Provincial Council and hold elections there before the end of 2014. There is no doubt the President wants to test the water. If the government manages to win all the elections in the Western, Southern and Uva provinces comfortably, we can expect the Presidential election within the first 3 months of 2015 and the Parliamentary elections soon after.
The billion dollar question for the Opposition and other ant-government forces is who can pose a serious challenge or defeat the incumbent President.
If one wants to defeat the present President at the next election she or he has to study how and why he was able to win people before and after he was elected to the Office of President.
An old acquaintance of mine, who was close to Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa when he was the MP for Beliatta electorate, said to me that Mahinda used to invite everybody who visited him at his Beliatta home for a meal, breakfast, lunch or dinner.
It is public knowledge that after he became the President he served food to more than one hundred thousand people who attended Temple Trees for official and unofficial matters .
Just before the last Presidential election he held hundreds of meeting at Temple trees and nobody was sent home in hunger. It is true that he had to meet people at Temple Trees as the LTTE was waiting in the street to assassinate him.
He served food to people because he knew that the path to one’s heart lies through stomach.
I do not remember any other President or Prime Minister who served food to people at his official residence.
I also can remember that he participated in a lot of agitations organized by the UPFA trade unions. He managed to win the hearts of anti-UNP trade unionists and members of trade unions by participating in their protest campaigns.
That is how he won hearts of lots of people.
After the defeat of the LTTE he became more popular among the Sinhalese but he became less popular among the Tamils. The provincial Council elections in the North proved it beyond any doubt.
Unbearable cost of living has hurt 90% of the population and that has made him less popular among all sections of the masses though some may not agree with me.
The voters are now aware that a lot of government politicians are earning millions upon millions through legal and illegal means. Heroin container is only one example that shows how politicians earn millions or billions.
Mr. Mangala Samaraweera himself reminded us that many MPs are engaged in heroin business. He did not say that only the government MPs are in that lucrative business.
People are largely fed up with the government but if there is no formidable candidate acceptable to them from the Opposition at the next Presidential election many Sinhalese probably will cast their votes for Mahinda again mo matter how much they are disgusted with the government.
Then who is there to be nominated as the common candidate of the Opposition at the next presidential election?
Is Ranil the alternative?
Ranil himself knows that he is not popular, not even in his party itself though he is considered a Mr. Clean. Many will agree with me when I say that he is not a charismatic leader. He simply does not know how to win people.
There is no doubt that Mr. Ranil Wicremesinghe will lose in case he contests at the next Presidential election. Thank God and gods he knows it and I am sure that he will not contest.
The what about Karu?
Karu is a person unknown to many voters. He is not a charismatic leader and he is only another D.B. Wijethunga. One has to be good orator, a fearless, steadfast, principled leader if he /she wants to attract people and win elections. Karu is a far cry in that respect
Then another leader of the UNP who is looking forward to be the President of the country is Sajith. Will he be able to win?
My answer is loud ‘NO”. Why? He will simply not get nomination from the UNP. Even if he contests he will end up in the third place in the race. Nobody knows his stand on many burning issues that hurt Sri Lankans.
Then do you think Sarath Fonseka is the next best?
My belief is he is worse than Ranil. He knows how to lose votes by using vituperative language to attack his enemies. One cannot garner votes if he/she is not people friendly. Many are scared of electing a military man as the Head of the country simply because democracy is anathema for military people. Mahinda or Ranil is much better than a military man as the President of the country.
Next in line is Rev. Maduluwawe Sobhita Thero.
There is no doubt he is keen in restoring democracy, rule of law and independence of judiciary. He wants badly to abolish the Executive presidency and the constitution and usher a better constitution.
But after the attacks on churches mosques and Hindu Kovils by the pro-government supporters of the BBS, Sihala Ravaya and Rawana Balaya, the Christians Muslims and Hindus are scared of the yellow robe. As Buddhist priests have not played any significant role to help the displaced people in the North and East they have no sympathy for Buddhist clergy at all. Without the support of the Tamils , Muslims and Christians a Buddhist priest, even of the calibre of Rev. Maduluwawe Sobhita Thero, even as the common candidate of the Opposition will be an unsuccessful contestant in a race with Mahinda.
Can we present a Tamil or a Muslim as the common candidate at the next Presidential election of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka? It is nothing but a suicide mission as we are a far cry from Obama’s America.
So, from where can anti government forces find a candidate who can pose a serious challenge to His Excellency?
If the Opposition do want to defeat the incumbent President they have to find him/her from nowhere but from the disgruntled old guards of the governing Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
Why should the common candidate be found from among the ruling party?
If the common candidate is unable to bag several hundred thousand votes from the UPFA, he/she stand no chance of winning at the Presidential election .
Therefore in case a popular figure from the SLFP is presented as the common candidate of the Opposition he or she will be able to get a lot of votes from the disgruntled SLFPers and it will be an unprecedented challenge to the incumbent President.
It definitely depends on the level of unity, co-operation and strength of all anti government forces from North to South and West to East.
*Bertie Ranaweerage – Former president of Ceylon Teachers’ Union