28 May, 2022


Opposition Options: Factors And Non-Factors

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

If it is about who will be the principal presidential candidate of the Opposition then it boils down to who wins Ranil Wickremesinghe’s endorsement, in the event that he chooses not to contest of course. This is because the United National Party is the main Opposition party and the one that can secure support from important sections of the rest of the Opposition. This is also because of the UNP’s constitution and, more important, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s proven shrewdness in holding on to party reins.

There will be, as there already is, pressure from various sources. He will be asked to step aside for a more credible candidate to take on President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Some might even entertain thoughts of a coup to oust him before candidacy is formally declared. It won’t work.  He has to decide whether or not he would contest and in the event he steps aside he has the biggest say in naming a ‘common candidate’.

Very few, including the big names in the UNP, seriously think Ranil Wickremesinghe can win. People do check out track-records. People remember. They remember more clearly what’s more recent, sure, but there are things associated with Wickremesinghe that are not forgotten. The archives will no doubt be visited and relevant material unearthed and touched up. At best it would be a very tough ask unless he is helped by a ‘spoiler candidate’ capable of making dents in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s vote bank.

Karu Ranil SajithAn easier ‘ask’ would be a ‘common opposition candidate,’ but then again it would be hard to come out with a name with appeal greater than that which Sarath Fonseka had. Even if one were to account for abuse of state resources and other election malpractices, the margin is still considerable. Regime-fatigue, regime-ills and such might not bridge it for a lesser name. Anyway, it’s less about party than about personality. Mahinda Rajapaksa, simply, is still seen as ‘leader’ over and above the fact that he is considered a one-of-us kind of guy by large swathes of the voting population. A non-UNP ‘common candidate’ will suffer from the lack of enthusiasm from the rank and file of parties supporting him/her that was widely seen in 2010.

It has to be someone from the UNP. There are only two names to be considered. Karu Jayasuriya and Sajith Premadasa.  Dayan Jayatilleka (The Karu candidacy project: is it a viable option?) says he is the ideal candidate but says ‘that’s just his potential’. Leaving a window of opportunity slightly open for Karu (‘It isn’t his reality; certainly not yet—and there are only a few short weeks to go for crunch time’), Dayan opens a bigger window. For Sajith.

He says Karu has mismanaged the equation with Sajith. Some would argue that if anyone is guilty of mismanagement it is Sajith.  Sajith wanted Ranil to resign in favor of Karu and snubbed Karu at every turn including most recently in Uva. He wanted to oust Ranil but now backs him; backed Karu and now wants him hoofed out. That’s amazing ‘equation-management’ especially if Karu is all that Dayan claims him to be (‘Potentially the ideal candidate’).

Then he makes some grand claims about Sajith: ‘Sajith is not only the only UNPer who can galvanize the grassroots, he is the only frontline UNPer with resonance among the vast majority of voters who are rural/provincial’. He paints Karu as someone who has appeal only among ‘the goigama Sinhala Buddhist elite and its urban and suburban strata’. Sajith, on the other hand, he claims, ‘can carry the larger swathe of Sinhala Buddhists under the poverty line’ and adds ‘like his father did’.  He also says, quite correctly, that Karu’s signature political project of abolishing the executive presidency has no mass appeal, but then again it’s not difficult to downplay this. He does this and there’s no more an ‘Achilles heel’ in his candidacy.  Sajith, it must be remembered, has no project apart from ‘I, Me and Myself’.

The under-painting of Karu directly contradicts Dayan’s earlier ideal-candidate (potentially) claim. More seriously, Dayan just doesn’t substantiate the claims he makes about Sajith. Sajith’s Sinhala-Buddhist credentials are weak. ‘Hambantota’ (over 14 years) does not translate into ‘Sri Lanka’. He has been a divisive factor more than a unifying one in the UNP, even getting anti-Ranil pals to badmouth the party and the leader at his own rallies. He’s gone on record to say that if he is made candidate he must have the leader’s post as well. Yes, he’s all about ‘I, Me and Myself’.

How big is Sajith anyway? He has admittedly a great cheering squad. He is also the beneficiary of endless inflation by a television station whose owner has time and again proven that he has absolutely no clue about political winds, backing the wrong horse imagining it had the legs to win. For the voter-segment that Dayan believes would pick Sajith over the President that station is a joke.

Whatever that Sajith might hold back in the event of a Karu candidacy, is going to diminish into a non-factor as campaigns gather steam. What he ‘takes out’ could be compensated for by the JVP and JHU, both more comfortably with Karu than with Sajith.

Finally, the presidential election will be about what political forces the candidates can mobilize. Sajith is a demoralizer.  Karu accommodates. That could be key in an election already skewed in favor of the incumbent for reasons that are larger than incumbency in the context of the existing constitution. A good effort that falls short of a win would help democracy; a weak showing as is likely with a Ranil or Sajith candidacy would not only platter-giving to Mahinda Rajapaksa but would bleed into a poor showing in a General Election thereafter.

All this, IF RANIL STEPS ASIDE, it should not be forgotten.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com 


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  • 4

    Malinda Seneviratne –

    RE: Opposition Options: Factors And Non-Factors

    You are Shilling and Whitewashing hard for for MaRa, aka Mara these days. What about the Astrologers?

    *Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at http://www.malindawords.blogspot.com

    “If it is about who will be the principal presidential candidate of the Opposition then it boils down to who wins Ranil Wickremesinghe’s endorsement, in the event that he chooses not to contest of course.”

    Does not matter who the opposition candidate is. Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot contest a Third Term, Period.

    Rajapaksa government in a dilemma (The shills and White Washers working hard)
    SATURDAY, 01 NOVEMBER 2014 13:52


    The decision to announce a sudden presidential election on the 17th of this month or thereabout has been suddenly changed reveals a reliable source. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has two more years to complete his second term in office but there was speculation that an illegal presidential election would be held suddenly.
    The JVP with the former Chief Justice and other people’s forces had commenced a massive protest campaign against the illegal and unethical presidential election to be held prematurely. The government has been concerned as several political parties and groups were supporting the move to oppose the illegal presidential election.
    Also, legal experts including the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) have pointed out that President Mahinda Rajapaska has no legal right to contest for a third term.

    The Parliamentarian of the JHU Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero too had said every possible step would be taken to defeat Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa if he calls a presidential election without amending the Constitution.
    As such, an environment has developed in the country against a sudden presidential election, the government carried out a secret survey which has confirmed that the popularity of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decreased considerably and an opposition to him is developing rapidly.
    The government that has been concerned regarding the situation suddenly decided to put off the move to call a sudden presidential election says the source.

    • 4

      I agree with you. Mahinda or his brother cannot contest next presidential election legally unless it comes under a military rule. I am sure Mahinda understand the reality and he must have already made arrangement with China to suppress any public protest against a military rule.

  • 2

    Question will not be about stepping aside by/of Ranil. It will be about abolishing of EP which only allows crowing the brainless bulls/donkeys these days. Therefore have to brace ourselves to stand up in the dire national need in reinstating of DEMOCRACY, FREEDOM and RULE of LAW in the country.

    The opposition is in desperate mood to camp on to make sure that MR secures less than 25% in his own illegal election (if held). Having said that, we are not marginalising here the fact in which the momentum flow of the emerging third force of JHU+ Ven Amila Thero+JVP+SN Silva, Arjuna++++ gathering pace too. In this background, calling an (illegal) election before 2 years in his last term is no more than going home with Rs 25,000 pension. Once the repeal of 78 constitution is done after election MR will have to answer the to the court if he has done any financial/other frauds during his presidency as well under the new law.

  • 0

    [Edited out]

  • 3

    Malinda, You are, of all people, speaking about Ranil Wickremesinghe’s proven shrewdness. I’d rank you and your President far ahead of RW, in that category. Don’t blush!

    Ranil has a difficulty. He can no more go to US after his opposition to UNHCR. Ranil cannot ‘chu-chu’ China. Interesting landscape, indeed!

    Sajith has no future in the national scene. How can Karu undo supporting MR when UNP needed him most? There is no hope for either of them whether Malinda/Dayan promotes them or not.

    SF has pledged to support anyone who’d give him the Defence portfolio to take care of the unfinished business he has since 2010.

    That leaves us with CBK. Yes, CBK could turn the tables against MR.

    The question is, is CBK wanting to be the candidate. She would if Ranil would agree to back her. In that event, Mahinda is a goner.

    I’d still give Chandrika a second chance to undo the damage she had caused the nation during her previous stint. She is much wiser today than she was a decade ago. Add to that, the international presence she has gained in the interim.

    • 1

      nathan,i also was thinking about chandrika.She seems the best candidate,but whether she will win is doubtful.At least she will give a good fight.Mahinda will still be able to get through with about 52% of the vote.

      The advantage of chandrika contesting is that mahinda’s third term will be fraught with danger with the cleavage in the SLFP and he will have to watch his every step in order not to be toppled.

      My second choice is fonseka who will do better than last times 40% but will still lose.He will get more than 45% this time whereas if ranil or karu contest they will get less than 45%.

      The third wildcard is maybe anura kumara dissanayaka who seems to be increasing in popularity and who also might get more than 45% if he promises to abolish the presidency within one year.

    • 1

      I am pretty sure, Malinda was searching for this comment. His effort worked.

  • 0

    The options for the inhabitants are more important.

    The coming Election is of extreme importance for two reasons.

    These are, to preserve the freedom and peace which they enjoy by preventing the dismemberment of the Nation according to the wishes of the Foreigners and their local stooges..

    Secondly, to give the incumbent the opportunity to get rid of the crooks and corrupt politicians from the Government benches at the next Parliamentary elections.

    Several big time drug dealers have escaped to the West. Pakistan and India after the police stopped the crooked Politicians giving them protection.

    Has any of the three figures in the photo who want to become the President and give us good governance named these Politicians and helped the Government get rid of them?.

    How can Drug dealers get visas to Western countries, when their HCs and Embassies are totally embedded with the Opposition, which is supposed to fight corruption and promote good governance?.

    This is just an example to highlight the importance of why he incumbent’s hand needs to be strengthened to pick good people for the next Parliamentary elections.

  • 3

    must have got a newer version of a Laptop for this rubbish. You really try too hard Malinda.

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