27 June, 2022


The Uva Vote: Looking Back And Looking Ahead

By Chamindry Saparamadu

Chamindry Saparamadu

Chamindry Saparamadu

The vote in Uva has raised hopes for many: a possible defeat of Rajapaksa at a future election has built a certain momentum. It has generated discussion, debate, hypotheses and predictions. The electorate seems to have been awakened from a deep slumber. For an ecstatic UNP, it signals a probable opportunity of going alone and winning at the next election: It is possibly the best bargain for the party stalwarts. For the groups working tirelessly towards an opposition coalition, a common programme has now become a hard sell to the UNP as much convincing is needed more now than before. The regime, meanwhile, finds itself in a catch 22 situation: a choice between early polls or living its full term until 2016. A careful consideration of options is vital at this point.

A realistic assessment of the Uva result is called for in order to make any predictions regarding the outcome of a future election. What explains the Uva result?

Needless to say that joining of two factions within the UNP had a tremendous impact on the election campaign. Sajith Premadasa’s re-entry into the electoral fray definitively stirred the complacent UNP constituency. The regime’s waning popularity as a consequence of the rising cost of living seems to clearly have influenced the vote. However, one could hardly ignore the overwhelming appeal the young and charismatic UNP’s chief ministerial candidate Harin Fernando had on the constituency. Essentially, an electorate swayed by charismatic leadership was captivated by Harin through his well designed electoral campaign.  Without a doubt, Harin had been able to attract the anti-government sentiment that was expressed as a protest vote for the JVP and the DNA in the Southern and Western provincial council elections in March this year. This explains the decline in the vote for the JVP and the DNA in Uva. The singular focus of a united UNP effort had a crystallizing effect on the campaign.  Whilst the UNP collectively focused its full thrust on Uva campaign, the UPFA campaign seems to have been weakened by internal divisions. Post-Uva murmurs tell us that SLFP heavyweights wilfully abstained from putting their strength behind the campaign of Shashindra Rajapksa. A formidable electoral victory for Sashindra, in their view, would have been a reaffirmation of the electoral indispensability of the Rajapaksa family, which is hardly a victory for the SLFP at this point.

Nevertheless, a probable defeat of Rajapaksa and a victory for the UNP/opposition seems to hinge on number factors and eventualities.

Given the ease with which the Sri Lankan electorate is wooed by a charismatic leader as opposed to a collective programme, much depends on who will challenge the incumbent in power. Rajapaksa is losing popularity but there is no doubt that he still remains the most popular politician amongst the existing lot. Who can challenge him at the national level?

What is the opposition’s capacity to steer a national level campaign? Two issues need to be considered. What is UNPs organizational capability at ground level? It is unclear at this point whether the JVP would extend support to a common opposition candidate or a UNP candidate. JVP’s organizational capacity at the ground level is undisputed. Can the UNP lead an effective nationwide campaign sans JVP support? Needless to say a well planned campaign at the ground level is essential to defeat the SLFP political machinery that is well entrenched in the electorate.

The second issue is whether the effect of state and pro-regime private media can be effectively thwarted by the opposition. There is no doubt that the UPFA would use the media to its maximum advantage reaching the widest audience possible.

Much would depend on who will support and who will oppose the UNP or a joint opposition alliance. Rumours are afloat regarding closed door discussions and   lobbying of minority parties. How bargains are stuck, concessions and compromises made would be decisive. The negotiations so far seem to reflect how each actor strives to maximize its share of the bargain rather than working towards the collective goal of challenging the common opponent. It is likely that the Tamil National Alliance would base its support on condition of a North-East merger. This raises a number of issues regarding how the Sinhalese Buddhist vote base could be galvanized. Past Electoral politics in the South have been centred on a continuous process of mobilizations and counter mobilizations around the ethnic issue. An agreement to merge the North and East may trigger strong Sinhalese nationalist sentiments which could be a rallying point against such an agreement.

The vociferous anti-regime critique of the JVP set the stage for the UNP to mobilize the disenchanted vote in their favour at the Uva election. This raises issues regarding JVP’s political strategy at a forthcoming Presidential election. What will JVPs political position be? Will they be as critical and will they strengthen an opposition campaign when the party’s long term political survival is best assured by a third Rajapaksa term?

The most decisive factor at a national election, in my view, is how the UPFA would act in the next few months; how mistakes are rectified, politics manipulated and resources are manoeuvred. President Rajapaksa has not been a part of the post-Uva electoral discussions. However, answers to three questions might tilt the balance in his favour. Amidst speculations, will the SLFP be able to present constitutional reforms that would capture the imagination of the electorate emasculating the election slogans of the Opposition? Given this regime’s high track record in delivery, how well would a constitutional reforms package originating from the Rajapaksa camp appease the electorate? Is the regime able to give economic concessions through the 2014 Budget addressing some of the main economic hardships of the people? Is President Rajapaksa able to critically reflect upon the Uva election result and make amends with the SLFP organization in a way that he can muster full and unconditional support of the SLFP? Rajapaksa’s astute political savvy far outweighs that of any contemporary politician. He is sure to play his best political game this time around as well.

As said at the outset, the outcome of a future election depends on certain dynamics and eventualities. Actions and reactions of political actors, the partnerships they build and how personal interests are negotiated for the benefit of the collective would play a vital role in the final realization of these eventualities. At this point therefore, optimism for the future based on the Uva electoral results rests on shaky ground.

*Chamindry Saparamadu is a lawyer based in Colombo

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  • 5

    Dear Ms. Chamindry Saparamadu,

    RE: The Uva Vote: Looking Back And Looking Ahead

    “The vote in Uva has raised hopes for many: a possible defeat of Rajapaksa at a future election has built a certain momentum. It has generated discussion, debate, hypotheses and predictions.”

    Good succinct write up.

    What can writers and other do? Expose.. Expose and Expose the Mara regime.

    The current perception is that Rajapaksa Hegemony has taken over the UPFA/SLFP and people do not want dynasties.

    What can the writers do?

    Ms. Chamindry SaparamaduHema, thanks for a very good analysis. Can you be the Anonymous Author and Produce a Sri Lankan version of Common Sense in Sinhala, Tamil and English? You will do as much service to Lanka, the Land of Native Veddah Aethho, just like Thomas Paine did for America and France.You can expand this write up, and get there.

    Say, Because I have Common Sense, I will not vote for Mr. Rajapaksa and their criminal cronies for a continuation of a Family Dynasty, and say that Sri Lanka is a Republic.

    Rajapaksa had the opportunity. The power corrupted them. The People are sick of them. They even used Buddhism towards their ends. Even Sinhala Buddhists are fed up them, and they are showing their true colors.

    An Anonymous Author like Thomas Paine is needed with a Common Sense Pamphlet to expose the King, King George, the Rajapaksa Clan. Read, the Common Sense Pamphlet , by Thomas Paine, that inspired the American Revolution along with the other events. Common Sense (pamphlet)


    Produce a Commons sense Pamphlet for Sri Lanka and say why it is in the best interest of the people of Sri Lanka to remove the King, aka Rajapaksa Dynasty from power and let the Republic be a Republic and Not a dynasty. This Pamphlet, in Sinhala, Tamil and English, need to be sent to each and every Sri Lankan Citizen, just like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense pamphlet.

    Common Sense[1] is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–76 that inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for independence from Great Britain in the summer of 1776. In clear, simple language it explained the advantages of and the need for immediate independence. It was published anonymously on January 10, 1776, at the beginning of the American Revolution and became an immediate sensation. It was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. Washington had it read to all his troops, which at the time had surrounded the British army in Boston. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history.[2]

    Common Sense presented the American colonists with an argument for freedom from British rule at a time when the question of whether or not to seek independence was the central issue of the day. Paine wrote and reasoned in a style that common people understood. Forgoing the philosophical and Latin references used by Enlightenment era writers, he structured Common Sense as if it were a sermon, and relied on Biblical references to make his case to the people.[3] He connected independence with common dissenting Protestant beliefs as a means to present a distinctly American political identity.[4] Historian Gordon S. Wood described Common Sense as “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era”.[5]

    • 5

      This is a rather long winded piece about a non-event!

      The bottom line is NO ONE will vote for the ALL TIME LOSER Ranil Wickramasinghe – so the UNP is dead in the water NOW that Ranil has declared his intention to contest! Ranil is a shameless Dictator in the UNP! Nor does anyone have confidence in Sajith the moron who does NOT have a degree from LSE..

      Fact is that Mahinda Jarapassa regime won Uva- albeit with a reduced majority.

      Sobitha thero or Chandrika Bandaranaiayake will need to come forward as joint opposition candidate to defeat Jarapassa…
      Even the biggest Sinhala modayas will not vote for Ranil or Sajith!

      • 5

        Dead on Don… I will NOT vote for loooooser Ranil who anyway has a secret pact with Rajapaksa…

      • 1

        Don Stanley, How right you are.I do not like this govt, but I am 100% sure that Ranil cannot defeat this govt.Uva was an indication that Sajith Premadasa is not popular. It is his cheer squads that shout.The govt defeated the UNP by shifting three seats to Moneragala, knowing well that Old Premadasa, during whose regime people of Moneragala were arbiterarily slaughtered hates Premadasa. One voter called him ( i am using the English equivalent) the butcher of Moneragala.

        Take Colombo, the people who supplied a solid block vote for the UNP through 1956-2010 had been thrown out of their houses and made desperate. Did the UNP or Sajith the great protest? A BIG NO. When the Muslims and the Chritians and the Hindus are hammered their places of worship bull dozed did the UNP or Sajith the great protest. A big NO.If the UPFA and the UNP expect to share the Sinhala Buddhist vote then the UNP is mistaken.UPFA will get 60% of the vote. It is the UNP that destroyed the Sinhala villager, destroyed his livelihood, with the free trade zone at Katunayake made the village girl a prostitute, it is the UNP that destroyed our Religion with Elle Gunawansa and our culture with the nude shows in the TV.

  • 8

    Uva election is no good match to make future predictions. It was a campaign full of irregularities (23,000 army, 10,000 state workers…. and what not) MR himself was living under tea bushes in the night in Uva for two weeks to open toilets libraries, bokku, palam and edandu … from the day it was called for. In the future, under the foreign observers, brave refusals by officials and more cautious environment there will be a fair ground to put MR below 40% of votes or close to that. Trend is such though, that he will be very lucky to get that much. In the next few weeks with some more dramas similar to MPs assaulting are on the offing etc etc., my count would not stand to be more than just 25% for him.

    We anyway are heading for a parliamentary system. Its better for the country and people.

    • 5

      senaka de Z. Sirwardena

      What can the writers and people do?

      Senaka thanks for the analysis. Can you be the Anonymous Author and Produce a Sri Lankan version of Common Sense in Sinhala, Tamil and English? You will do as much service to Lanka, the Land of Native Veddah Aethho, just like Thomas Paine did for America and France.You can expand this write up, and get there.

      Say, Because I have Common Sense, I will not vote for Mr. Rajapaksa and their criminal cronies for a continuation of a Family Dynasty, and say that Sri Lanka is a Republic.

  • 2

    Chamindry is wrong to think that TNA would ask for a merger as a precondition to support the joint opposition candidate.

    TNA is not so stupid! It would be stupid of TNA to make any demands for merger of Northeast because defeat of Rajapaksa regime and the military dictatorship of the paranoid psychopath Gota the Goon (who is cutting all the trees in Colombo and the northeast because he is afraid of ghosts of the dead souls of people he has murdered). is certainly a precondition for any Merger..

  • 2

    Lady, you have no clue about politics. Harin may have had highest number of preferential votes, but he couldn’t win Badulla district which had been a bastion of UNP meaning UNP had never lost Badulla up to 2009. Votes that UNP got in Uva this PC election is no where near what UNP got at PC elections prior to 2009. So how could Uva results bring any hope for UNP.

    Commentator Banda has written a apt reply for Berty Ranaweera under ‘why Ranil cannot win’ in Sinhala CT. You can read it if you like.

  • 0

    Did you write this [Edited out]?

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