24 November, 2017

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Possible Distortions In Presidential Elections

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

The voter registration lists, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s majorities in ten districts and supposed high voter turnouts, all are unfortunately questionable without any prejudice to him or anyone.[i] If I am bias, I am bias for democracy and for a proper election system.

When Sri Lanka went for the controversial presidential elections on 8 January, there were 15,044,490 registered voters on voting lists. This is quite a high number for a population of 20.7 million people.

The Census population figure in 2012 was 20,359,439. The Department of Census gave an estimated mid-year population figure for 2013 as 20,483,000.[ii] This is also the figure the Central Bank gives.[iii] If I add a generous 1 percent increase, then the estimated mid-year population in 2014 would be 20,687,830.

Incredibility

If we take the registered voters as a percentage of the above population figure, it stands as 72.72 percent. This is quite a high figure by all standards.

Under the country’s election laws, only citizens who are 18 years and above can be registered as voters.

Fake Sirisena and MahindaIf I go through the same source and take the 2013 estimates, under 14 children are 5,431,000 or 26.3 of the 2014 population. The Department of Census doesn’t give an estimate for 15-17 group, but only for 15-19. When we take the necessary fraction, it estimates 994,800 as teenagers between 15 and 17. Therefore, the total ineligible under age group consists around 6,425,800 or 31.1 percent of the population. This also means the eligible population is 14,262,030 or 68.9 percent.

Therefore, how come that 15,044,490 people or 73 percent of the population are registered as voters?

On the basis of the above estimates, 782,460 or 5.5 percent are registered in excess of the eligible age group of population. This may be little less or little more. However, who are they? Who registered them? And for what purpose? Even these initial calculations give rise to serious suspicions when considering other factors. Another country which has this kind of an anomaly is Papua New Guinea.[iv]

Although it is a tall figure, let us assume eligible voters are 73 percent of Sri Lanka’s population. Even then how can you believe that 100 percent of them are (duly) registered? Even in a compulsory voting country, the actual registration does not exceed 75-80 percent. In Australia, it was revealed in a study last year that a quarter of the eligible voters are not registered.[v]

In recent times a high figure of registration (95%) of eligible voters was recorded in Scotland. But that was when a referendum was taken on the independence issue last September. But in the case of Sri Lanka, the figure or even the lists appear in excess of credibility which should be explained or inquired by the Department of Elections. It is true that there can be double entry errors. For example, the same name can appear in two polling or Grama Niladhari areas, after someone moving from one area to the other. There is also a possibility that a newly dead person’s name would still remain in the electoral list. However, these errors cannot even exceed 0.5 percent.

It is true that the Commissioner of Elections declared strict rules in identification and voting procedures. Even a finger of the voter is inked after handing over the ballot paper. However, when large numbers are flocked for voting, the election officers, might not be able to scrutinize the proper identification. I am not here raising the issue of possible stuffing of ballot boxes. My main concern is incredibility of the total number of registered voters.

So-Called Majority?

There are claims that Mahinda Rajapaksa obtained a ‘majority of the majority’ in ten districts that he won. These are Hambantota, Moneragala, Matara, Ratnapura, Galle, Anuradhapura, Kurunegala, Kalutara, Kegalle and Matale, as in Table 1, in the order of the voter percentages that he received.

GunaThe majority percentages are between 51.41 and 63.02. As the Table more clearly shows these are by and large the districts where a large percentage of voters happen to turnout. The turnout percentages are between 82.35 and 84.90. There is a clear or high correlation between the two, although it cannot be claimed 100%. I have not attempted a correlation coefficient calculation as my undergraduate statistics knowledge has gone rusty.

There are of course six other districts where voter turnouts were fairly high, but Mahinda Rajapaksa failed to win a majority because, in my opinion, of the tough competition from the opposition, irrespective of fraud/malpractices. These are Polonnaruwa, Colombo, Gampaha, Badulla, Kandy and Nuwaraeliya.

Argument

My present argument about the correlation derives from my main argument that registered voters are incredibly or suspiciously high. There is reason to believe that there were substantial numbers of ‘ghost voters.’ One may ask, if almost all the adults are ostensibly registered, then from where does the ‘ghost voters’ come? Although I don’t have a clear answer, the following are some possibilities. (1) Those who cast the postal vote, can easily impersonate for others, if the time or opportunity permits. (2) The underage also can impersonate like in PNG (if they look older or on the margin) and obviously Nil Balakaya comes to my mind. (3) If the finger ink can be washed, a crook can vote not once but even several times.

There is always a substantial percentage of voters not wanting to take the trouble of voting. I would reckon that this group to be around 20 to 25 percent in Sri Lanka based on the past figures (2005 and 2010). If one wants to impersonate this group, without creating suspicion, the best policy might be to inflate the registered voter numbers or ‘ghost voters.’ Given the procedures of voter registration, this is not a difficult task. But in the present case, it appears the effort has been gone overboard creating suspicion as I and others have raised. So much so it is worse than PNG. In PNG, some years back, around 4 million were registered out of a 6.1 million population although with a high young population like Sri Lanka.

In 2005, the voter turnout was 73.73 percent, largely due to LTTE induced boycott. In 2010, the voter turnout was 74.49. At the recent election, it could have reasonably gone up by around 3 percent due to higher turnout in the North and the East. However instead, the voter turnout has shot up to 81.52.

In my article titled “In Predicting Presidential Elections” (Colombo Telegraph, 6 January 2015) I estimated “2 percent being fraudulently casted or counted” for Mahinda Rajapaksa at the 2010 elections. This time my estimate is 5 percent. On the Election Day morning, responding to Uvindu Kurukulasuriya’s provocative article “Are We Too Late?” (Colombo Telegraph, 8 January 2015) I more concretely predicted saying “I would count the overall political swing to be around 10 percent and this means something like 52 percent for MS, 47 for MR and 1 percent for others.”

What I did not count without available election data at that time is the degree of possible systematic election fraud in 2015. Therefore, I wish to submit that if not for around 5 percent manipulation this time, Maithripala Sirisena would have won not only the 12 districts that he already has, but also the districts of Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, Kalutara, Kegalle and Matale. This is clear from the data in Table 1. Therefore, the claim that President Maithripala Sirisena has not won the ‘majority of the majority’ is not correct. There are some obvious distortions in the election results.

Conclusion

Much has been said about the coercion and violence; and the misuse of state resources, personnel and the state media for the former president’s election campaign. However, the long term subversion of the election processes through controlling of voter registration lists and schemes for impersonation and voter manipulation have not taken our enough attention irrespective of the good work carried out by election monitoring organizations.

Mahinda Rajapaksa has been in executive power since 2005, and the UPFA as a political organization since 1994. It is also my personal knowledge that the election processes were closely monitored, controlled and to a large extent manipulated through political and party apparatuses throughout these years. Therefore, there are major distortions within the electoral processes as a result. This is apart from the distortions in the electoral system in general.

To rebuild democracy in the country these matters have to be looked into in a careful and a systematic manner.

[i] I wish to thank ‘Dodo’ also for raising this issue as a comment to one of my articles before.

[ii] http://www.statistics.gov.lk/PopHouSat/VitalStatistics/MidYearPopulation/Mid-year%20population%20by%20age%20group.pdf

[iii] http://www.cbsl.gov.lk/pics_n_docs/10_pub/_docs/statistics/other/econ_&_ss_2014_e.pdf

[iv] Ghost Voters Haunt PNG? http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/ghost-voters-haunt-png-poll/2007/06/29/1182624165678.html?page=fullpage

[v] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-10/half-a-million-young-australians-not-enrolled-to-vote/4809100

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Latest comments

  • 5
    12

    Fully agree Professor(e).

    You have made a strong case for declaring the Jan 8 election null and void and holding a fresh election.

    Only this will give Sinhala UNPers the chance to correct the mistake they made at that election.

    Please continue your campaign against this perversion of democracy. Presume the ‘group of 13’ distinguished Australian Sri lankans you lead will be able to take this matter up urgently with the Elections Commissioner whose office is at Rajagiriya.

    Best wishes.

    • 2
      0

      You must be the real special kind of stupid. If there was another hypothetical presidential election, without the disgusting, distorting, malicious rumor mill that was the state media, MR would loose by a minimum of a 1.5 million margin, minimum. Once the severity of the crimes of the family, their henchmen and friends are public knowledge, only village idiots in there masses will remain to vote for MR. That will be an insignificant minority among the majority..

    • 2
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      Dr. Laksiri Fernando –

      “What I did not count without available election data at that time is the degree of possible systematic election fraud in 2015. Therefore, I wish to submit that if not for around 5 percent manipulation this time, Maithripala Sirisena would have won not only the 12 districts that he already has, but also the districts of Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, Kalutara, Kegalle and Matale. This is clear from the data in Table 1. Therefore, the claim that President Maithripala Sirisena has not won the ‘majority of the majority’ is not correct. There are some obvious distortions in the election results.”

      Thanks for the Analysis. Given the MaRa corruption, it is likely. However, you need good data and statistical support. I would suggest you look into the demographics of each district, or just pick one district, and also the ethnic composition of the district, and estimate to see if there are out-liars. It will show if there is any discrepancy. If there is fraud, the fraud may not have been uniformly committed in each district.

      Question. Was it Fraud, disinformation or lack of information that is causing these discrepancies?

      Was it the State media effect? Cutout effect? Rallies bused effect or bribery paying voters to vote effect? The lies effect? Intimidation effect?

      Do you think a Sri Lankan Version of common sense pamphlet, written in Sinhala, 47 pages, may have made some effect?

      One can include a Chapter on Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler , Newton, Foucault and the earth going around the moon as well, for fun and true information.

      Can conclude and say, if you accept that the Earth rotates and goes around the Sun, then you should accept most written in this Common sense Phamplet Sri Lanka 2014/2015.

      PS. The Average IQ of Sri Lankan is 79. So, the Common sense Phamplet need to be written in simple, common sense language.

      http://www.photius.com/rankings/national_iq_scores_country_ranks.html

      28 Sri Lanka 79

    • 0
      0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 13
    1

    Dr.Laksiri
    Not many people get to browse this site Colombo Telegraph. Your findings should be brought to the notice of the authorities concerned for future elections. This is a very serious matter. Now that you have pointed this out, yes something seems to be very wrong somewhere. The previous regime was so corrupt that this fraud is very possible. Those in authority, please do take this up very seriously as this could harm future elections (April).

    • 1
      0

      The Rajapakse cabal, with self-proclaimed “vote machines” like SBD, dark men of the pathala lokaya, the kudu rajas and the like
      are quite capable of manufacturing bogus polling cards, ghost voters to frustrate the system. The mood in the country was so much against the Rajapakses many thought he would end up with around 35% of the
      genuine polled numbers. The higher figure Rajapakse claims is clearly
      bogus votes by the Shape-karaya.

      Dr. B.I. Passe

  • 8
    0

    Well thought out points and its important the authorities take action on these issues.

    Thank you Dr.Fernando.

  • 5
    0

    Thank you, Dr. Laksiri Fernando. I have always appreciated your contributions during the election and in the lead up to it. Quite honestly, I do not understand the why and what of it. If you would argue that there are voters in excess of the number legally registrable, that is a point worth making. But how this would have influenced or distorted the results of the election overall is open to doubt. The comparison or rationale is not clear. My humble opinion is if Dr. LF begins to write like this – markedly different from mostly excellent and thought provoking articles before – he is sure to lose serious readership the way Dr. Dayan J – the doyen of analysis in paralysis- suffers now. Continue to retain analytical credibility in what you write, Laksiri. My sincerest advice to you, please. In recent weeks, I have begun to admire Dr. Sri Gamage for his theoretical approach to the subject he touches on. We expect more of the excellent pieces from you in the 98 days that remain, of Maithri Palanaya.

    • 1
      0

      Imad, I dont understand your problem with Dr Laksiri’s argument. It seems very clear and acceptable to me. I well remember watching voters being transported from polling station to polling station in Colombo during the 1982 referendum. In fact I finally photographed one of the large vehicles ferrying such people. It carried a garage number plate, and a voters’ list was stuck up against the windscreen, inside. People were dropped off at a polling station opposite Deal Place, where they consulted some chaps with green lamp caps on (at the gate house some way from the building being used for voting), who examined their lists and gave out names of people yet to vote. I was so outraged I actually pulled a list from one of the guys and ran to hand it over to the policeman at the station entrance. Far from going to stop what was going on, he turned on me and told me to — well — let’s say “Get out”. Sinister looking chaps began to gather. I decided not to tempt Providence and hurriedly left the area, proceeding to RA de Mel Mawatha (Colombo 3 ). Within minutes I was looking at the barrel of a pistol being pointed at me by one of the local UNP MPs — who demaned that i hand over my camera…..I wont go into the rest of that story.

      But my own examination of the Referendum campaign and the results convinced me that something like 5 lakhs of votes could well have been “planted” one way or another by the government — that, in fact, the government LOST the Referendum (I hope to republish that account sometime next year — it is fascinating how closely that campaign parallels the recent one).

      I think Laksiri’s argument here is very plausible. In fact, I, myself, was amazed that we had such a high voter base when we have an exceedingly large under-voting-age population.

      • 0
        0

        No, Manel. I respect him. It is out of that respect I cautioned him to avoid the pitfalls that DJ et al make. Perhaps, I overshot, and if so, my apologies to him. But I considered the first point he made, as I said in my comment, was valid. My doubt was how distortion could happen in favour of one candidate only. On my second reading now, I tend to agree with him even though I feel much is needed to fully substantiate the point. Thank you, LF

      • 0
        0

        manel i think you are really brave guy.at that point of time when srilanka was in turmoil you were idealistic to take a photo and try to reason with police men which would have probably worked in a developed country not in south asia as a whole.i really salute you.may your tribe increase in the larger interest of democracy and fair play.

  • 4
    0

    So the majority of majority voter argument put forward by types like Gammanpila with respect to the southern districts,Anuradhapura,Matale etc are questionable.Assuming,there was no rigging whatsoever MS should have won more districts or cut down the margin.Why not go for electronic voting like in India?

  • 3
    0

    This is very interesting. It tells us that the majority of the majority happily collaborated in a massive fraud aimed at re electing their lord and king His Majesty Rajapaksa The First of Sri Lanka.

    It shows us that the majority of the majority has no clue as to how a democracy is to be operated and that the majority of the majority is in fact at all democratic in outlook. This was of course becoming increasingly apparent as the reign of King Rajapaksa dragged on and if the good professor is right then it is confirmed by this fraud.

  • 4
    0

    A brilliant piece, backed by careful analysis.

  • 0
    0

    Great insight to what the UPFA baffoons have been up to in this elections.

  • 0
    0

    Prof.Fernando, If I am not mistaken, the Census didn’t count/include fully the migrant Sri Lankan population numbering over 1,500,000 (only about 600,000 would have been included according to some sources). Therefore the total population count of Census 2012 would have been incomplete. A large proportion of even those who have been included in the census wouldn’t have got themselves registered for the 2014 Electoral Register. Could this partly explain the proportionately higher percentage of registered voters?

    • 0
      0

      Dr Vinya,

      Yes, the total population count or Census in 2012 not necessarily incomplete, but without the migrants. However, if “a large proportion of even those who have been included in the census wouldn’t have got themselves registered for the 2014 Election register” then it should have shown a lower percentage and not a higher percentage. Therefore, it cannot explain a ‘proportionately higher percentage of registered voters.’

      In October, EC revealed (Sunday Times, 19 October 2014) that there were over 70,000 people complaining that their names were not included in the List. But how many didn’t complain or even didn’t know or bothered? Prior to the 2014 List, I think the previous List was prepared in 2008. I was not included although we submitted the CC forms. Why? Although I was a strong supporter of the UPFA at that time, I was living in a locality known as UNP! My neighbours said the same although not bothered.

      I am happy that you have taken much interest on the subject. If we were to rebuild democracy, we have to start from the basics, ensuring everyone eligible of their ‘right to vote’ and also stopping ‘ghost voters.’ Impartial voter education is also important.

      • 1
        0

        I think it will be easy to go back and correct all the resutls becsue the new govt will need more funds to fulfil their promises made to the nation. As it is becoming clear today, mini budget will clarrify how bankrupt the MR govt had been though they showed the other way around. If loans taken from china or other had been used going through asterity measures as it is the case for Greeks today, nothing would have happened, but this has been a mess of management under highly corrupted man in top leadership. He had been overwelemed by the word ” RAJA THUMA – KING” – rather doing his service for which he was appointed to. ANyways, even the many voted for him will have to get it clearly, that nothing could avoid him getting defeated.

        • 0
          0

          it should be “it will be NOT easy to go back and correct all the resutls”

  • 0
    0

    Absolutely agree with Laksiri. That’s exactly the reason why MR took this so lightly with carefully planned fraud, never expecting the North & East to complete the rout. Its time to learn there more smarter people. However for people like Laksaru, staying in a foreign country and sowing seeds of communal hatred like the Tamil diaspora, Sri Lankan elections is a wild sport, at the cost of innocent public. Maybe he also related Gamanpila, talk about patriotism, and then flee the country back to Australia with all the loot leaving the Sri Lankans much poorer.

    • 0
      0

      Ruwan,

      I normally don’t respond to personal comments if they are outright prejudices or slight. However, your comment appear a misunderstanding regarding me being in Australia. I did come back to Sri Lanka in 1997 and served until retirement in 2010, as an academic, leaving a lucrative position at the University of New South Wales. I think I have paid my debt to my country of origin and for my free education in Sri Lanka serving in different capacities. I never talk about patriotism but truth as I understand. I have been a dual citizen for a long period and opted to live my old age in Australia for family and health reasons. I don’t sow the seeds of communal hatred. Where did you get that impression? Also, no one should have prejudices about people who migrate overseas. They have their own reasons and it is a personal choice. If you have the opportunity you should do the same without prejudice to your country. You should also understand that many Tamil people had to leave the country not necessarily by choice but they were forced to, particularly after 1983. Try to understand them as well.

    • 0
      0

      Sorry Ruwan, I think you were referring not to me but to Laksaru. Sorry again for my previous comment.

  • 1
    0

    They played the card, ‘Ranilta Ba’. Loudly proclaimed that Ranil has lost 29 times and is a habitual loser. This is how they have won elections from 1994 using every trick in the book. In 2005 the number of UNP voters that were taken off the list, amounted close to four hundred thousand. Leave alone the Northeast vote of the Tamils out, had the numbers deleted from the South were allowed to vote, Ranil would have romped home as President with a majority more than what MR got over Ranil a mere 180,000.

    I and my family was a victim in 2005 to find all our names being deleted from the voters list and so many others who were prominent UNPers, where entire families had been deleted from the voters list. This is how MR won in 2005. After 1994 both CBK and MR resorted to various malpractices to win elections and the last was the Presidential Election of 2010 to defeat Sarath Fonseka. Ranil studied the whole set up and this time around had a plan to thwart the whole exercise by eliminating even Computer Jilmart by getting the Election Commissioner to issue a carbon copy of the results to the agents of the Candidates to prevent Computer Jilmart. This foxed the whole bloody lot of them who would have otherwise cheated as before.

    What Laksiri Fernando has stated should be analyzed carefully and measures taken to correct them forthwith. In the future Elections should be conducted under a Caretaker Administration and should never be allowed to be handled by the sitting powers. No Political party should have Powers over the The Election Commissioner’s Dept that should be completely Independent.

    Someone above has suggested that voting should be computerised as done in India. This is one thing that should never be allowed, if we are to retain Democracy. Let the system of Ballot marking to continue and replace wooden boxes with plastic see through boxes to prevent stuffing of ballots before placing them at Poling Booths.

    • 0
      0

      It is all because the opposition led by RW was weak as no other times. That paved way all stupid politicians to turn a parliament laughing stock. As we are aware, so long no strong opposition is there, rulers can do whatever they think is right. Those senior men (Dew, Wasidewa, Pathirana) to sit on the side of UPFA by singing hossanas was teh other greater mistake of the last few years. Even JVP s voice was not strong at the beginning of MR terms though it epitomized with the time, that JVPers (2 MPs) brought more arguments than the UNP bunch sat on the opposition side. This is the reason why people to cave a – RANILS BA katha… as nothing could erase it for the time. Even today, I see that young wijewaradhna to be given a state defence minister position can be a mistake – the man though coming from elite background – having no knowledge to handle it. Agree with the situation you have to chose the lesser evil in today entire political coldrum. But there, i would prefer much senior men to be given the place than young ones. Dr. Harsha Silva for exmaple is a talented able man to directly handle Ministry of Finances but for some reasons they prefered Ravi K – there many criticised the man is proved to have gone on records in the past. Howeve, wait and see how all this coudl work for the improvement of the society.

  • 0
    0

    Dr L Fernando,

    You quite rightly point out that the voting figures are suspect. Your numbers also make sense. A great many people have discussed this issue prior and after the elections, me included.

    This also explains how MARA was so smug until the last minute, despite opposition to his misrule becoming a massive flood.

    We can quite openly now say that the ‘majority of the majority’ is true due to ‘jilmart’ only.

  • 0
    0

    Why has the author very conveniently left out Polonnaruwa district in his statistics ? In this district Sirisena’s majority was 57.80%. The voter turn out
    was 83.94%.

    • 0
      0

      Ruwani,

      Haven’t you seen the following explanation of mine mentioning Polonnaruwa in the first place?

      “There are of course six other districts where voter turnouts were fairly high, but Mahinda Rajapaksa failed to win a majority because, in my opinion, of the tough competition from the opposition, irrespective of fraud/malpractices. These are Polonnaruwa, Colombo, Gampaha, Badulla, Kandy and Nuwaraeliya.”

      PAFFREL reported 11 incidents of violence and 24 other violations in Polonnaruwa. See http://www.paffrel.com/posters/150103120150polonnaruwa.pdf

      This means the government goons were in operation but failed due to support MS received from the people. In my opinion, MS could have obtained around 63% majority if not for what I have called ‘fraud/malpractices.’

  • 0
    0

    Mahinda won’t sleep till he trips up the new President. The public must be vigilant.

  • 0
    0

    Assume that the ghost voters voted FOR king Mahinda? What if they actually voted AGAINST king Mahinda and not even this could actually prevent a Siri-Sena Victory because of the push from the Minorities?

    This looks like the BODU BALA SENA became a carefully cultivated sheep dog of the KNORRRRRRR-VEGANS that was set loose to herd the minorities into the Siri-Sena that won the battle against King Mahinda and his Royal Party.

    What a nightmare!

    I hope you can statistically dispel that possibility.

    Delusional thinking can be a terrible thing.

    If I get hold of a chance to get out of this Cookoo’S nest I must certainly shall fly.

  • 0
    0

    respected dr.laksiri,
    you have done a very good job of analysing which is a very difficult task in developing country.i need to salute srilankans for voting out mahinda though i am a tamil residing in tamilnadu.i feel sinhalese would have been most affected if he had come back to power.so many members of his family enjoying the power and so much of corruption indulged in by these family members nothing would have been left out for ordinary srilankans.while lot has been discussed in the comments section ultimately it is the people enlightenment,awareness and viewing issues in a dispassionate manner that will result in good governance.this is the bottomline and it applies not only to srilanka equally to other countries also.i once again salute srilankans for voting out mahinda rajapakshe.

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