28 May, 2022


Who Should Be The Common Opposition Candidate?

By Palitha Elkaduwa

Palitha Elkaduwa

Palitha Elkaduwa

This is the critical question that needs to be answered in the coming two weeks in Sri Lankan politics. The answer will have major implications for Sri Lanka’s future for the next several decades.


The Rajapaksa administration has been one of the most confident administrations in post-independence Sri Lanka after the LTTE was defeated in 2009. In 2010 Mahinda Rajapaksa won the presidential election with 58% of the all island vote, polling about 67% of the Sinhalese Buddhist vote. The government’s confidence was shaken in September 2014 when it won the UVA PC with just 51% of the vote. In the 2009 Uva PC election it polled 72% and in the 2010 presidential election in the same province Mahinda Rajapaksa polled 73%.


ranil- karu- colombotelegraphIn contrast, in recent months the confidence of the opposition has increased for several reasons. First, the UNP did well in Uva. Second, the campaign of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) led by Rev. Maduluwawe Sobhitha has gained traction. Third, cracks have appeared in the UPFA with JHU demanding the abolition of the executive presidency. Fourth, and most importantly, a broad opposition coalition is forming around the demand for the abolition of the executive presidency. TNA that dominates electoral politics in the north also subscribes to this view. The main Muslim poltical party is still with the government. But the Muslim community in general has lost confidence in Mahinda Rajapaksa and  his government. This provides a credible opening for a united opposition to put forward a common candidate and defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa in the next presidential election.

A candidate with credibility and the broadest possible support of all anti-Rajapaksa parties and groups has a real chance to defeat Rajapaksa in what will be a “do or die’ battle for Rajapaksa, as he (and those in his inner circle) has too much to lose. There is little doubt that the election will be fraught with violence, intimidation, threats, bribery, corrupt practices, manipulations and dirty tricks. The win of the common opposition candidate cannot be marginal but so emphatic as to make impossible any post election manipulations.

The Challenge

Table – I below summarizes the electoral challenge that the opposition has to face. The Table is constructed on the assumption that there would be a free and fair vote.  It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the conduct of a free and fair election. It is likely that about 11.0 million voters will cast valid votes. Of these around 7.9 million (72%) will be Sinhalese Buddhist and the balance 3.1 million will be from the ethnic and religious minority groups. Given the general loss of faith of the minorities in President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his administration it is certain that a majority of the 3.1 minority vote will go to the opposition. It could vary from about 54% to as much as 68% or even higher. It will largely depend on the unity of the opposition and the acceptability of the Common Candidate.


President Rajapaksa’s strategy appears to be to rely largely on the Sinhelase Buddhist vote to win the election. However, there are clear signs that the Sinhalese Buddhist voters are increasingly getting frustrated with the corrupt and wasteful Rajapaksa administration and the high cost of living and other economic woes. The Uva election was a clear wake up call. Rev Maduluwawe Sobhitha’s campaign for the abolition of the executive presidency has also gained traction among Sinhelase Buddhist voters. JHU parliamentarian Rev. Rathana’s Pivithuru Hetak Movement also has made the abolition of the executive presidency the centre piece of its campaign. The JVP has unequivocally stated its opposition to the government and its support for the abolition of the executive presidency. Former presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka and his Democratic Front are also of the same view. Former president Chandrika Kumaratunga has thrown her very considerable poltical weight behind the opposition campaign.

Recent election results suggest that the UNP commands a minimum of 25% of the Sinhelase Buddhist voters and possibly as much as 35%. However, as figures in Annex Table 1 show even 35% of the Sinhalese Buddhist vote and 68% of the minority vote will not be sufficient to get a common opposition candidate elected. Keeping the minority share for the opposition candidate unchanged at 68%, the Common Opposition Candidate needs an additional 727,000 votes or about 43.1% of the total Sinhalese Buddhist vote to win the election with an overall poll of 51%. To make this happen two conditions must be fulfilled. First all opposition parties must come together and work towards the common goal of defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa. This means UNP, JVP, JHU, DF, minority parties, other smaller parties, and Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga and the SLFP faction that is loyal to her have to work together. Second, a truly Common Candidate who can command the respect and confidence of ALL the Opposition parties including the minority parties must contest the election.


Three credible candidates may be currently available although none makes a claim that s/he is coming forward.  The first is the former President Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga. She has the advantage of being the former boss of Mahinda Rajapaksa and the ability to attract SLFP support for the opposition. However, she appears to have a legal impediment. Even if the Elections Commissioner does not rule upon an objection to her candidature, the real possibility that the Supreme Court may rule her ineligible under the current system of Sri Lankan (In)justice is very real and could deter voters from supporting her at the poll. This is a risk that the opposition cannot afford to take. That leaves two others as possible candidates. One is the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and the other is UNP senior parliamentarian Karu JayasuriyaTable 2 is a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the two prospective candidates.

Table 2:

A comparison of Ranil Wickremesinghe and Karu Jayasuriya for common opposition candidate

Points: one is the minimum and three is the maximum number of points that can be allocated in any one category. Maximum total score for the ten categories, is 30 points

Ranil Wickremesinghe: 15 points and Karu Jayasuriya: 21 points

PE Capture

PE 1 Capture


The above analysis suggests that Mahinda Rajapaksa is vulnerable in the next election. Events in the past few months in the country suggest that a ground swell of support for the opposition is growing in all parts of the country. People are increasingly tired of a regime that is known to be corrupt, inefficient, flouts the rule of law and disregards justice, and is rapidly moving towards a family-centered  authoritarian regime. The public expects the opposition to be totally united abandoning the usual party rivalries and intra-party squabbles. Mahinda Rajapaksa knows that a united opposition that brings the UNP, the SLFP faction to which Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga is able to give leadership, JVP, JHU, Rev Sobhitha’s NMSJ, General Fonseka’s DF, other smaller parties in the South plus the minority parties are a formidable poltical force that is virtually unstoppable. All the leaders of these parties have a bounden duty to the people of Sri Lanka and for generations yet to be born to work together to save the country from disaster and destruction at the hands of the Rajapaksa family. They have to begin that noble battle by choosing the best possible candidate available to fight for them as the Common Candidate in the forthcoming election.


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Latest comments

  • 1

    This dude must have worked s a pollster in the West..

    I have never seen the Opposition doing analysis like this.

    But the problem is they haven’t picked a Candidate yet after all these positives emanating from the hard work of these up to speed Polling Experts.

    Now the task of selection is solely on the shoulders of the new recruit to the grand Opposition, UNP,TNA, Diaspora Alliance..

    ( wonder whether the new spin off, the Orgy Diaspora in it too)

    He is a disgruntled Council Member from Kalutara , one Mr Nandana Who Gunathilaka.

    Nanda says he will reveal the Candidate in two weeks.

    Will it be s Ranil, Karu, CBK , Champaka, Maithree, Sunethra or Sajith..

    Or is it a spanking brand new addition, the shining star of the SLFP, senior Minister Mr Maithree Sirisena ?

    Wonder whether Bombay Bookies have framed odds and give punters in the Diaspora and Tamil Nadu the chance to wager a few bob.

    • 2

      K.A Sumanasekera,

      “This dude must have worked s a pollster in the West..”

      True. He must have.

      He lacks analytical skills in Rajapassa Clan’s notorious, yet highly successful Gil-Mart election methodology. Truly innovative & unique.


      • 1

        since the Presidential Election has been announced ,now time has come for UNP to act as one entity , leave UNP and Elephant symbol out , work for a common goal !

        here are few important things to do ASAP

        1) Call/fax/SMS/voice mail/snail mail/face book messages to Mr Kamlesh Sharma reminding his promise of the presence of election observers before the nominations .

        2) all the opposition parties with their supporters must go to the Election commissioner’s office and demand for substantial amount of international observers presence for the entire period (otherwise the clown Deshapriya may call for a few dozens of corrupt Asian officials for the sake of calling )

        3)book all the major grounds/ public places for future rallies .

        4) get the necessary police clearance/approval in advance.

        5)JVP has a very strong grass root level support base in rural areas , provide them logistical/financial support to enhance/motivate their activities.

        5)CBK needs to come out from hiding now and get the record straight , she has a major role to play , step motherly treatment is a BIG no for her (2nd row seat was offered to Manglala by Tissa A )

        6)more focus must be in rural areas

        other commenters also can provide some valuable points to enlighten the campaign !

  • 1

    A useful indicative analysis.

    The Ranil-Karu table however is subjective. For this reason the 15 points to 21 points comparison has to be taken with a load of salt.
    a) The categories have obviously been constructed to give Karu a lead.
    b) The scoring on factors 1,2,3 and 4 is deliberately skewed against Ranil by the writer. In category 8 Karu should be given minus 2 and Ranil should be given 3 stars.

    Anyway details apart, objectively speaking as a non-UNPer, as a national figure Ranil I think has a clear advantage over Karu as a Common Candidate. (Chandrika and Sobitha are more likely winners . . . but . . )

    • 0

      Palitha Elkaduwa –

      Good thoughts. Your assumptions need to be supported by polls and be subjective,

      The biggest advantage Ranil has over Karu is that he did not cross over and come back minus he took along.

      The biggest advantage Karu has is that he wears the “National Dress” compared to pants,

      Can we get Ranil to wear the National Dress? Will it make a difference.?

      after all CBK wears the saree.

      Besides make sure 80% of the citizens vote, and WRITE, PRINT AND DISTRIBUTE THE COMMON SENSE PAMPHLET.

  • 6

    Maybe CBK a common candidate and SF for Defence :)

    • 4

      Whoever wins, please make Sarath Fonseka as the minister of defense post just for a month. Oh I would love to watch the fun. That is the time, I will see Sumanasekeram getting off his knees and running for his life.

      • 1

        Pigs will fly before Fonny becomes the Defence Secretary..

        But Ranil may sneak in with the help of the stupid JHU and the JVP.

        That will frighten the crap out of many people who now live in peace and harmony.

        With TNA Police in the North and Ranil in charge of the brave Armed Forces including the Military Intelligence , hopefully the past acts of these two parties won’t be repeated.

        • 1

          Hey Sumanasekeram, you need to practice standing up once in a while. You are always on your knees in from of the coolie from Hambantota. The practice may help you if SF is made Defense secy. :)

    • 2

      How about Sajith for Presidency,with CBK as Finance Minister, SF the Sports Minister and Ranil to the Speaker’s chair.

  • 3


    You say, “and is rapidly moving towards a family-centered authoritarian regime.” Come off it man. The Rajapaksa juggernaut have already established a family-centric authoritarian rule, are all powerful and sitting pretty.

    It will take more than the present day UNP’s group of lacklustre politicians, even with the support of JHU and JVP to grasp power from the Rajapaksa Mafia. If the unthinkable happens do not expect the Godfather to go silently. There will be a civil war and MaRa the Godfather with the help of the pliant military will remain in power – I think.

    • 2

      BBS Rep,

      I share your thoughts & fears.

      “All the leaders of these parties have a bounden duty to the people of Sri Lanka and for generations yet to be born to work together to save the country from disaster and destruction at the hands of the Rajapaksa family.”

      Time will show. However, track record of the so called opposition is not encouraging. I am skeptic.

      I earnestly hope they will rise to the occasion like real men. And help Sri Lankans save their beautiful country from endless, corrupt & brutal tyranny of just one family clan, their cronies & henchmen.


      PS: If the unthinkable happens & and it will. Clan will go nuts. There will be utter chaos.

    • 0

      BBS Rep:
      “There will be a civil war and MaRa the Godfather with the help of the pliant military will remain in power – I think.” you have said. Although it was not so militarized people thought it would happen when RW came to power in 2001 December. Because the three service commanders and IGP were appointees of CBK. But it did not happen. General Daluwatta followed by three service commanders and IGP met with RW and went with RW. The military leaders are not fools, if the majority voters put a government in place. I think RW and Co also must have gained larger experience and the military leaders also would have gained experience. There may be some attempts to destabilize but I do not think professional soldiers would oblige MR and Co as you think. Do not forget the polling %s are reflected in military establishment too. Of course MR must be expecting it.
      In addition this analysis is before Maithree Sirisena (MS) actively came to the scene. The comparison table has to be redrawn. Therefore, this analysis may have to be redone. The writer seems to be a UNP supporter and a KJ supporter too. RW may be the best to run the country and MS may not be a patch on him, but he lacks other qualities of political leadership which are excessively possessed by MR, and even by MS and KJ. It was the case of MR too when he contested in 2004. But voters did not go on political sophistication and voted MR to power. Can this happen if MS contests as the Common Candidate? He is politically savvy though not the English speaking western savvy politico. Probably getting him to genuinely support RW or KJ or the latter two to genuinely support MS would certainly defeat MR. Especially when JVP is turning on to change its stances if MS comes forward and JHU also taking the same stance.

  • 0

    [Edited out]

  • 1

    Good analysis. Karu J is the ideal candidate.
    RW/UNP and others should nominate him and give him
    the best support, victory assured.
    If they miss this opportunity and make a wrong
    choice, UNP is doomed forever.

    The members of the working committee
    of the UNP be analytical and make a good decision
    failing which, when you loose there would no functions left as UNP would reach a status of a MINOR party.

  • 0

    Nice exercise Mr Elkaduwa; impressive, and much thought has gone into your analysis.

    Now let’s get real. The incumbent President will remind WE the people that he brought us Peace and eradicated the northern scourge. He will break bread with his detractors and make offers that they could not possibly refuse. He will kiss babies and promise jam for the morrow.

    And, he will promise to keep that peace with the help of his dog-loving brother.

    Who will trump that?

  • 1

    The public who would vote are from the entire country and the working committee of the United National Party is not fully representative of that. The members majority of them, may have been nominated by the leader Ranil W and for that reason they should not be biased towards the leader.
    Ranil is a very intelligent leader but he has to understand the realities of the minds of the voting public.
    In 2005 Ranil almost won the race but today after 9 years Ranil does not have the same image.
    His behaviour as leader of the opposition where he was more a supporter of the incumbent president but did not show any action as leader representing the opposition, e.g,

    1) what protests he made when 18th amendment was tabled,
    2) when former CJ was removed from her post,
    3)against rising cost of living,
    4) against corruption,

    There are many others as well. These are in the minds of the ardent supporters of the UNP who are
    Dejected and some of whom may not exercise theirvoting power as they have shown in many of the
    PC elections. Therefore fielding Ranil again may be the worst decision and the working committee
    Must be aware of same.

  • 1

    Karu.J is the best bet since after he becomes the pres He should do away with this system , get rid of all the supreme court judge and let the independent commissions function. Dissolve parliament have a caretaker govt call for parliamentary elections and thereafter retire from politics.

  • 1

    Karu nor Ranil can win. It should be one from the SLFP.

  • 1


  • 1

    Good analysis, but try and ponder about this.

    We all know that Common Candidates winning marks if any would come from Tamils from the North. Whether TNA backing is necessary to get those votes or not however, TNA has already set upon a ‘list of demands’ for that Tamil vote bank. In my opinion, that ‘list’ is the best thing MR could ever expect.

    Sinhala Buddhists are very sensitive to TNA ‘lists’ for they can read what TNA and its backers, diaspora is after. Remember, SF is said to have an edge at the start of the Presidential race only to loose in the end. One of reasons is the TNA-SF agreement. Only recently Batti MP Ariyanethran came up with what was in it. And the government knows how to capitalize such things. So, don’t expect for Uva PC election results to repeat at a Presidential election.

    • 0


      TNA / SLMC demands need not be a concern. The Common Candidate should state only this.
      ” WE are contesting MR not on practical governance and constitutional difficulties faced by various groups that had joined hands. It is only for a constitutional change to erase the Executive Presidency and powers, electoral reforms, reintroduction of 17th A and implementation. There is a time limitation of 6 months to do all these. What any political group requires to be done should be after a new government is formed under the new constitution that would come in to being in six months. Take up your matter with the new government. It is a democratic way of doing things as the alliance to do the three main issues are not equally agreeable to their demands. Let us first put good governance in order. Until then you have to wait, but support us if you agree with our man objectives!”

  • 0

    The Rajapakse regime will stand unbeaten as long as there are sycophants like K.A Sumanasekera around to lick their boots without a thought to what they are doing to wreck our country. Hitler was once worshipped like a saint by the German people when everything he touched turned to gold, at least that was what the people were told by his PR team of Himmler and Guerin. The Rajapakses have an equally formidable PR team and the likes of K.A Sumanasekera will realise the awful mistake when it is too late. Sadly the people who will face the consequence are our children and their children for a few generations. The Rajapakse clan will be riding high on the crest of the wave in their mansions in USA.

    • 0

      Sylvia Haik

      “The Rajapakse regime will stand unbeaten as long as there are sycophants like K.A Sumanasekera around to lick their boots without a thought to what they are doing to wreck our country.”

      Soon he will vanish from this forum.

      However there will be another person emerging from the ashes of K A Sumana.

      He/she will be christened Kandiah Suppiah Summairusekaram.

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