23 July, 2024

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The Deciding Factor In Sri Lanka’s Election Debate: Policy Or Public Frustration?

By Athulasiri Samarakoon

Dr. Athulasiri Kumara Samarakoon

Sri Lanka is at a significant political crossroads, engaged in debates over the timing and type of its next elections. The primary issue is whether to hold the constitutionally mandated presidential election before the end of October or to prioritize general elections, which could favor the ruling coalition in parliament. This debate is crucial for the nation’s future, balancing policy considerations against rising public frustration. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) has proposed several strategies, including nominating billionaire entrepreneur Dhammika Perera, who they believe might garner significant Sinhala Buddhist support, to advocate for general elections first. Despite this, President Ranil Wickremesinghe appears to be deliberating carefully, even as SLPP leaders urge swift action.

Strategic Considerations

Basil Rajapaksa, a former national organizer of the SLPP, has recommended that President Wickremesinghe prioritize general elections. Rajapaksa believes holding general elections first would secure more seats for the SLPP than if they were held after the presidential election. However, this strategy depends on a parliamentary vote for dissolution, which the president has not favored. This political maneuvering highlights the ruling coalition’s concerns about its popularity and the need to gauge public sentiment through elections.

In a recent interview, Basil Rajapaksa discussed the collapse of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government, noting the challenges of managing large legislative bodies and the issues stemming from the concentration of power and controversial policies, such as the ban on chemical fertilizer. He also emphasized the importance of party unity and cautioned President Wickremesinghe against bypassing the SLPP hierarchy when dealing with its members.

Reluctance to Hold Elections

The current government, led by President Wickremesinghe, is perceived as reluctant to hold elections. This perception arises from the postponement of local government polls due to financial constraints, a decision that has met with public and political discontent. The government’s hesitance reflects its awareness of diminished support, mainly due to accusations of mismanagement, corruption, and economic missteps by the SLPP. Basil Rajapaksa’s comments further highlight internal tensions within the SLPP and the importance of maintaining party hierarchy.

Opposition Parties

The main opposition parties, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and the National People’s Power (NPP), are preparing for a potential electoral showdown. Both parties aim to capitalize on public dissatisfaction. The SJB, led by Sajith Premadasa, has presented a Ten-Point Program for Economic Stabilization and Equitable Growth, addressing issues like transparency, debt management, and public sector modernization. The plan includes strategies for enhancing tax collection, curbing government expenditure, promoting key economic sectors, and ensuring robust social safety nets, aiming to stabilize the economy while fostering equitable growth.
In contrast, the NPP, under Anura Dissanayake, advocates for a production-centered economy with phased development and state-led initiatives. However, the NPP’s approach has faced criticism for not adequately addressing the realities of a global economy dominated by multinational corporations.

Leadership and Public Trust

President Wickremesinghe’s leadership is characterized by a reliance on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a pragmatic approach to economic management. His association with the SLPP, a party with a history of economic mismanagement, has further eroded public trust. In contrast, both Premadasa and Dissanayake promise more locally focused solutions, appealing to a populace weary of austerity measures and external dependencies.
The political situation reflects a tension between conservative forces and emerging bipartisan dynamics. The SLPP and the United National Party (UNP) seek to maintain their hold on power, while the growing influence of the SJB and NPP suggests a shift towards a more pluralistic political landscape. This shift is driven by a public eager to reclaim their sovereignty and hold leaders accountable for past failures.

Need for Effective Governance

Sri Lanka’s economic situation demands effective leadership capable of mobilizing all sectors of the economy. The current government struggles to implement necessary reforms and relies heavily on international credits and assistance, primarily from India. Debt restructuring and delayed repayments are critical issues that any future government will inherit and must address.

Conclusion

Sri Lanka is at a critical juncture where the decision to hold presidential or general elections first could shape the country’s political and economic future. The choice between policy-driven governance and responding to public frustration will determine the trajectory of Sri Lanka’s democracy. The upcoming elections will serve as a crucial test of the nation’s resilience and commitment to democratic principles. The political landscape is set for a transformative period where the choices made now will impact future generations. The focus on policy, particularly the SJB’s detailed Ten-Point Program, versus public frustration, will be pivotal in determining the nation’s direction.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    0

    What’s the point of having elections in SL as far as the Minorities are concerned. Result will be the victory for one the party representing the Sinhala Buddhists. There has been no
    real democracy in SL since independence. It had been a case of majoritarianism. The regular state sponsored attack on minorities has resulted in the current predicament. It is very sad that the Singhalese do not still realise their stupidity

  • 1
    0

    The last line of this essay,,,,,
    ……The focus on Policy,particularly the SJBs detailed Ten-Pint Program versus Public Frustration will be pivotal i determining the Nations direction………

    In essence what the essayist is driving at is the voter must choose a POLICY[SJB]
    rather than give vent to public frustration [NPP?]
    RW IS persona non grata in this essay by Dr.Athula!

  • 3
    0

    “The Deciding Factor In Sri Lanka’s Election Debate: Policy Or Public Frustration?”
    In 1978, JRJ lead UNP received massive support from Sinhalese after the economic crisis created by Srimavo Bandaranaiyege. In 1994, Chandrika lead SLFP received almost with 80% majority including the support of minority’s. In 2019. In 2019, Gota came with 62% majority purely with Sinhalese votes but the Economic crisis chased away Gotabaya from country within 2 years. So, now it is time for a change and it is possible that SJB or NPP to win with elections because people do not want to bring back those responsible for the economic crisis.
    However, the author talked only about economic crisis (Policy, frustration) of Sinhalese people ignoring the influence of Fundamentalism or related collapse of the rule of law or corruption, and particularly ethnic crisis. We should not forget that 30-35% of the voters are Tamil speaking minorities and you cannot undermine the influence of those votes in the elections.
    It appears that Tamils of this nation are now thinking of a common candidate and only vote for that candidate. In most of the elections, racism or anti Tamil propaganda influenced decided rather than economic policies.

  • 1
    0

    Dear Dr. The last sentence of your essay: “The focus on policy particularly the SJB’s detailed Ten Point Program……..nations direction”.

    Are you the spokesman for SJB? OR do you intend to educate the people on how they should assess the present situation and decide on the direction?

    If you say “Yes” to the first question, you have done your duty. If you say “Yes” to the second question, you have FAILED. Why I say it, you would probably wonder. Why have you conveniently (in my opinion) forgotten the NPP policy statement and Action plan in the update “Rapid Response”?

    Put on whatever hat you prefer and fits well.

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