21 October, 2019

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Presidential Election & The President’s Spoiler Power 

By S. I. Keethaponcalan –

Dr. S. I. Keethaponcalan

Sri Lanka’s major political parties have been making arrangements and strategic moves with the forthcoming presidential election in mind. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe‘s highly publicized visit to the North last month was one of those strategic moves. Tamil votes are and should be a part of the United National Party’s electoral calculations. Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna leader Mahinda Rajapaksa has been meeting with Muslim groups, knowing very well that Muslim votes played a significant role in his defeat in 2015. Hence, we are already in an election season. Characteristically, the new budget will also reflect this reality. 

Meanwhile, President Maithripala Sirisena faces a different set of problems. Despite his public pronouncement in the early days of the presidency that he will be a one-term president, he is keen to contest for a second term. It is with this objective in mind that he made Mahinda Rajapaksa the prime minister in October 2018. The project did not succeed, and Sri Lanka returned to the status quo within two months. In October, the decision to unseat Wickremesinghe was influenced by the fact that UNP votes will not be available for him next time. 

This dilemma has forced Sirisena to look for votes in other parties. The natural option is the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. Hence, as confirmed by media reports, the president has been luring the SLPP for an alliance with him as the presidential candidate. The SLPP and Mahinda Rajapaksa seem to be reciprocating with meetings and consultation. 

Is an SLFP – SLPP alliance with Sirisena as the presidential candidate possible? The answer to this question is, extremely unlikely. However, why is SLPP engaging Sirisena on this issue? It is because of the president’s “spoiler power.” 

Presumably, all major stakeholders in this issue are operating based on the numbers generated by the 2018 local government election. In this election, Mahinda Rajapaksa headed SLPP gained 44. 69 percent of the total votes and Sirisena led parties, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the United People’s Freedom Alliance garnered 13. 38 percent of the total national votes.   

There is no evidence to suggest that Rajapaksa faction has gained any new votes in the last one year. Instead, it might have lost some votes due to the way in which the SLPP and its allies behaved during the 2018 political crisis. Undoubtedly, the crisis reenergized the UNP. Theoretically, some of the UNP defectors could have returned to the party in October 2018. 

On the other hand, the UNP could also count on Tamil votes from the North-East, which went to the Tamil parties in the local government election. One cannot suggest that these votes will be enough for the UNP to win the presidential election. The UNP’s chances heavily depend on how it performs in the Sinhala majority areas. 

Of significance is the fact that without an alliance with the SLFP (and President Sirisena), the SLPP is staring at about 45 percent votes, five percent short of the 50 percent (plus one vote) required to win the election. Therefore, the SLPP is undoubtedly interested in the SLFP votes and perhaps an alliance with the president. The question is, would the party sacrifice the “trophy” itself for the five percent votes? If one goes by the electoral strength of these parties, the bulk of the gains should go to the SLPP in an alliance between the SLPP and SLFP. Hence, the SLPP is unlikely to accept Sirisena as the common candidate. 

The other significant reason why the SLPP would most probably not endorse Sirisena for president again is the recent experience. After the election, the SLPP would have no control over the president, and there is no guarantee that he will not go against the wishes and agenda of the SLPP after winning the presidency for the second time. This was a bitter lesson the UNP learned very recently.      

However, President Sirisena’s decision to contest the presidential election would considerably diminish the SLPP’s chances of winning the election because he would take away a small number of crucial votes from the SLPP candidate. Hence, the president could spoil the game for the SLPP if he eventually contests without the support of the SLPP. This is President Sirisena’s spoiler power. Hence, when Sirisena seeks an alliance with the SLPP to win the next presidential election, the threat of spoiling is inherent in the offer. 

It seems Mahinda Rajapaksa understands this predicament. Hence, the reciprocation. In relation to its dealings with the president, the SLPP needs to achieve two specific objectives: (1) not antagonizing the president, and (2) preventing him from contesting the presidential election on behalf of the SLFP. “Talk but not concede” is most probably the SLPP strategy at this point.  

This perhaps explains the meetings the SLPP is having with the president currently while not conceding to his demand for an alliance with Sirisena as the common presidential candidate. It is not clear how long the SLPP would be able to preserve a cordial relation with the president based on this formula. President Sirisena could be unpredictable. The reality that the UNP could have an interest in encouraging Sirisena to contest without an alliance with the SLPP would compound the pressure on the SLPP. Ideally, the UNP should also be friendly with the president to the point of pushing him towards an independent run. 

What is possible in relation to an SLFP-SLPP alliance? If the SLPP to conclude an alliance with Sirisena without conceding the candidacy, it needs to make other concessions. Many options are available. One of them perhaps is promising the premiership to Sirisena if the alliance wins the national elections in 2020. Undoubtedly, Sri Lankans have evolved to accept their former presidents as prime ministers. This is one of the options available for these two parties. 

One has to wait and see how the SLPP deals with the problems generated by President Sirisena’s spoiler power. Would the SLPP go ahead and contest the election on its own regardless of Sirisena’s decisions? Would it be bold enough to gamble with the SLFP votes? We will know sooner rather than later.    

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Latest comments

  • 11
    0

    dates and times of MS are numbered, for sake of good Sri lanka let us see a different leadership? do not we have good leaders, so many political pundits are in Sri Lanka, why do not some come out and contest the presidential election : I prefer some one from JVP to make a difference.

  • 3
    5

    S.I.Keethaponcalan

    Reason for your scribbling?

  • 9
    0

    My buddy, Sirisenas is a lost cause and a dead beat of man, and this time, all his magic wouldn’t work. All are disgusted of him. If MR takes him in, and that’s the end of him too. People don’t like him Sirisena at all. Just walk on the streets and feel the pulse of them, all of them are cursing him for all the dirty things he is been doing for them and the country. Without the Northern and Eastern Tamils,’ the Upcountry Tamils’, the Muslims’ and Christians’ votes, none would become a President for the majority Sinhalese votes cuts into two, on top of this, the one who gets the minority votes, wins it all. Either Sirisena joints MR or MR joints Sirisena that’s end of both of them for the 52 days saga and the comic display of their minions in the parliament have greatly dented the people’s enthusiasm for both of them. Even if they put many summersaults and sit on their heads, no chance their winning at all. Throwing money and doing big shows wouldn’t work, and last time MR did what a show with their money power and terrible misuse of the state machineries which were at their commonds and disposal. What about the cut outs of MR, every 500 meters, and one could see from the moon too.

  • 7
    0

    Srilankan politics in an interesting stage now. So far there is no hope for any change in the political dynamics. Since the end of war, Srilankan politics become more complex rather than a smooth one despite there were paramount of opportunities for stability and prospertity. For the past 10 years, this nation faced economic crisis, political crisis, religious crisis,unethical leadership, unstoppable corruption, political coups, renewed ethnic violence, family dictatorship and go around with three individuals Sirisena, Mahinda (Family) and Ranil. Sometimes you would like to think war is better than non war situation for our country. In todays politics political party immaterial. Only Individuals are a matter. For the Presidential election, People have to make a choice between Sirisena, Some one from Mahinda Family or Ranil. If you put a list of charcteristics of a good leadership all three score zero points based on those characteristics. So they need to find a some other alternative factors to build up their socres in this competition. The problems are huge and there is no answer to resolve from these three individuals because they had the opportunity but they failed it in all issues. LTTE is no longer in the field but LTTE factor remains a powerful factor in determining Srilanka’s future.

  • 0
    4

    Comments does not match with the author says. Author says MS spoils the soup for Neo-liberal, UNP who is trying to invent a society in which Sinhala majority is silent and those who are very ambitious and rich get around the system and on merit basis they thrive. Lackadaisical, Majority Sinhala buddhists will be like Rats trying to think why our Karma is this bad.

  • 4
    0

    Lets face the facts. Lanka has gone down the drain way too far. RW , MR and MS together have more than 150 political years. It will be one of them replacing other and worse, we will continue to see familiar faces Wimal, Goman, Vasu, Dinesh, Mahindananda, Arumugam, Viyalendran,Wijedasa, Hakim —–etc—-etc, within parliament. We will also continue to see our usual shitheads, Sarath, Mohan and GLP , the people behind the scenes. The circus will continue unabated.Thanks to RETARDS and PSEUDOS, who are still at work 24/7. Usually after Denial,Shock and Anger (seen enough of all three) the next stages in grief are BARGAINING and Depression. Sorry to deliver the bad news . You,ll are royally F—-D. Another Venezuela in making.

  • 5
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    I know one name that will lose and that is MS.

  • 4
    0

    I know one name that will lose MS.

  • 6
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    While the President is trying to get the support of SLPP, SrI Lankan’s can not expect any judicial inquiries in to the corruptions of the past government.
    The ill gotten wealth of JO will be used to campaign in the upcoming Elections. So expect large numbers of huge billboards, political marches etc resulting in huge WASTE of money that the poor villagers everywhere in SL could have benefited by building houses schools libraries etc etc.
    We need to ban the bilboards of the Politicians. We need The aspiring LEADERS to appear in the media and tell the voters what they stand for and what they will do for the country.

  • 9
    0

    Am I the only person obsessed with thinking in terms of a long term strategy for making our electorate a more imaginative one?
    .
    We are, in realistic terms, stuck with this notion that we must vote for one of the two major candidates. Adopt strategic voting instead. Show the always corrupt major candidates that we don’t approve of their dishonest ways.
    .
    Of course, we’ve got to finally ensure that the less objectionable guy gets elected. So use your three preferences. Give first preferences to some individual who has some vision for our future. As ” Lankan7″ has suggested, let those who can’t spend hours of research vote for the JVP. You will find a number of much smaller parties (most of them seem to be Marxist oriented – although I must confess I know little of Marx) also fielding candidates. Give them your first preference, perhaps on communal lines. Let your second preference go to the JVP – hoping that they will get into the run-off round having come at least second.
    .
    The likely result is going to be that nobody gets 50%. I know this has never happened. Cast your third preference for the UNP or the SLPP. The result will almost certainly be the same as voting unimaginatively; but by 2025 at least, many more voters will opt for recognising honesty through strategic voting.

  • 8
    1

    Sinhala Man I understand your frustrations.Is JVP going to be the answer for our 70 years problem.
    (one time were they not part of the problem). We had right and the left, ultraright wing/ left wing, communist/marxist/socialist, SLFP and SLPP, older and newer versions of UNP, Senanayakas and Bandas, Rajapaksas and JR/RW, N.M. Perera/PK , then others like Vasu, Dinesh/Tissa (their own school of political system, which no body has ever heard) and they did was to take country down the drains. How is the present JVP different from all the rest. Now we are left with Pseudos who are presenting as Nationalist, Patriots, War Heroes, religious heads ____etc. Also keep in mind our retarded public is not ready for any changes and wants the familiar crap to continue. Of course there may be light at the end of tunnel but in Lanka the tunnel never ends.

    • 8
      0

      Thanks, chiv, for making observations on my comment. You’ve adumbrated all those political philosophies and their exponents. I occasionally read their stuff, and I’m sure that some at least were worthy gentlemen. I’m sure that I don’t understand much of abstruse
      .
      I often hear members of the public congratulating the voters of Sri Lanka (and by obvious extension themselves as well) on their political maturity. Quite the contrary. I think they (and I!) are bloody fools. It’s we who have selected a lot of crooks to be in parliament.
      .
      This is the problem. Forget political philosophies. The guys whom we now have are out and out crooks. I did not want to take the risk of naming those whom I consider honest. That is not as important as people voting only for those who they feel are of total integrity. I’m possibly as mistaken as others of who the honest guys are. Let us hope that, unlike what is usually the case, many candidates get sizable numbers of votes. That will force the duo of front runners to pause and take note of their lowish approval ratings.

    • 5
      0

      Dear chiv,

      I wanted to indicate in my response to you whom I would cast my cast my First Preference for. I must have forgotten to put that in. It is going to be for Nagananda Kodituwakku because from what have been able to assess, he’s serious about combatting corruption, starting with the most powerful. If we want to encourage people to use their intuitive feelings, we must not be afraid to express our own intentions.
      .
      In my first comment I did not indicate my thinking about individual candidates because I wanted to focus on the actual mechanics and arithmetic of the vote. I’m not suggesting that anybody should support the persons whom I would vote for. Please do your own thinking, but help others to identify suitable candidates. We don’t have much time to go. If we could pressurise the UNP to support Nagananda as “the common candidate” that would be fine – but don’t undermine his own independence by attempting to swallow him up.

      .
      I would seriously consider voting for the JVP. After all we have got three preferences available to us. I don’t think that Nagananda and the JVP have any truck with each other. But what of that. Let us just give expression to our personal feelings.

  • 8
    0

    This election is going to be fought by Pro China party & Pro India party . Sri Lanka is no longer Sovereign and that has been flushed down Kelani River by MR & MS. It is all about who gets into power which will decide Sri Lankas fate and what is left of Sri Lankan. I am happy Sri Lanka has paid a terrible price for Nathikadal.

  • 2
    0

    Kali, you are absolutely right. Small countries are usually absorbed by bigger ones either financially,politically,or to some other influence. This is witnessed in corporate world where most small companies eventually gets swallowed by the by the giants. When fully dependent for credit you are known as SUBSIDIARY and not INDEPENDENT any more. Unless you have the vision like Singapore to holdout independent , otherwise you will very well be part of some one. Lankans never had the vision to be independent. Since independence Lankan had been dependent on Japan, China and western countries (I still remember watching Srima.B visit to China which was shown in our school in projector screen and returning with gifted car ????? BMICH, Airports and now Harbor (all are vital for security) is built by foreigners. Later Rajapaksa for their own personal gain (forced to ????) decided to go with Chinese influence and the government is now out sourced where others are calling the shots. Now everyone wants a share and our so called politicians are playing to their tune. What is Sovereignty????? What is Nationalism??? What is Patriotism??? MY FOOT. Retards going around daily to different countries with begging bowl for their next meal ( in 1970 and 80 it was one or two visits in a year). A serene meditating Lankan Buddha is now replaced by laughing Buddha in down south.

  • 3
    0

    MS tried every trick in the book and now looks like he has taken up on Geneva to stay in power (gets votes). Sending two groups to Geneva representing shit hole with opposing views, One to support the proposals (Government), One to oppose by Presidential THAATHA.

  • 6
    0

    All of these men are either crooks or have blood in their hands. Ranil got caught for Bond Scandal. People with intelligence are well aware of Mahinda’s mega deals. No body with a iota of common sense will vote for Sirisena, as he is out of his mind. Gota is a strong contender, but with him come crooks like, Basil, Namal and other Rajapaksas.
    Country’s only hope is Attorney Nagananda Kodituwakku. But unfortunately most rural folks are not aware of him. At any cost, non of the 225 present parliamentarians should not be elected as all of them are crooks. Need of the hour is a clean character in the form of NAGANANDA KODITUWAKKU.

  • 2
    0

    Lanka at its finest. The rumor is Lanka will be represented by two groups of people in Geneva one send by “presidential thaatha” to oppose and another by government to support. Now Lankans should start “clean house” and stop whining about colonialism , LTTE, diaspora, sovereignty and the other usual crap. You retards cant even decide which side of the table to sit. You all had two governments and two PM and this will be another First in sending two groups to represent country with opposing views. May be Lankans have taken the meaning of expression of speech/democracy to different level.

  • 5
    0

    Sinhala Man , if we had just 50% of voters with the same mental capacity of yours , we would have been close or even better, than Singapore today. There is one other person has voiced the same opinion elsewhere.Unfortunately we are negligible in numbers , to have a say.

    • 0
      0

      Thanks, chiv.
      .
      I’m sure that you are sincere in what you say!
      .
      It’s too late to say much more as responses to your comments since few would see them. And the task before us is to get people to think these issues out for themselves – not necessarily to agree with us.
      .
      Who was the “other person”? It doesn’t sound like you; in that case, it makes three of us, but hopefully, we will each be able to stimulate the thinking of many others. We want them to develop common sense.
      .
      But then, as Voltaire observed, “Common Sense is not so common.”

  • 0
    0

    The author has missed mentioning Chandrika and her part in thwarting MR’s victory in 2018 Political crisis. MR nearly succeeded until Chandrika drove a spanner in the spokes of MR.

    Future of the successes of Rajapaksa clan depends on the Goodwill of Chandrika, I believe.

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