Voters facing a confusing political landscape as country heads for elections

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Most Sri Lankans believe that 2024 will be election year although it is not very clear whether the presidential election will be held first or the parliamentary elections. Whichever election is held if the voters are to make informed choices the issues before the country must be presented with clarity by the parties aspiring to take over the reigns of government.

When voters cast their votes at the elections they will have to take two aspects into account. The first is calling to account those who have governed the country and giving the voters’ verdict on their performance. This will relate to the record of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his SLPP cabinet when in office.  

The other aspect is what the political parties have to offer by way of policies if they are elected to office. In order to decide voters will have to attribute responsibility to the SLPP and the UNP based on their performance in office for the past few years in relation to the economy, democracy, corruption and other governance-related issues.

Unfortunately after the disastrous three years of (mis)governance of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency, the voters are facing confusion with more and more uncertainty being created due to statements and actions of the various political actors.

The first factor that the voter has to sought out is whether the current Government headed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe is a United National Party Government(UNP), a continuation of the Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) government of Gotabaya Rajapaksa or a coalition of the UNP and SLPP.

United National Party Chairman Vajira Abeywardena told a media briefing held at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) last week, that it is the United National Party’s manifesto that was rejected by the people in 2020 that is presently being implemented for the greater good of the country and suggested that all politicians in the country familiarise themselves with its contents.

Speaking at the manifesto launch of the UNP on July 16, 2020, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed that a UNP Government would uphold the democratic gains such as the independent institutions including the Elections Commission, Police Commission, Public Administration Commission, and the Human Rights Commission, introduced by the 19th Amendment. “The UNP will safeguard these democratic advances. We will not in any way permit a constitutional amendment that would get rid of these independent commissions. We will continue to strive for the abolition of executive powers of the Presidency,” the manifesto stated.

Taken together with the fact that President Wickremesinghe abolished Gotabaya Rajapakse’s 20th Amendment and replaced it with the 21st Amendment thereby restoring the independent Commissions also supports Abeywardene’s contention that the present Government is in fact implementing UNP policies although they were rejected at the last elections.

The absence of any agreement between the UNP and the SLPP at the time Ranil Wickremesinghe took over also is supportive of the view that he was given a free hand to implement whatever policies he wished.

The SLPP parliamentarians are also content to allow him to do so with their attention more focused on rehabilitating themselves in the eyes of the public. However there are others like parliamentarian Gevindu Kumaratunga who believe that President Ranil Wickremesinghe is obliged to implement the policies of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Kumaratunga in a recent media interview has accused President Ranil Wickremesinghe of blatantly abusing ousted predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s mandate. He criticised President Wickremesinghe’s recent declaration in Jaffna regarding the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

The MP said that those who voted for Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Nov. 2019 presidential election and gave the SLPP a nearly 2/3 majority at the parliamentary elections, the following year, endorsed the country’s unitary status. The Parliament elected Mr. Wickremesinghe to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term, Kumaratunga said.

Amidst all this confusion comes the news of various political groupings sprouting up like mushrooms with no clear policies. In addition to the alliances centred around the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the National Peoples Party (NPP) there are the political outfits of Dilith Jayaweera, Dhammika Perera, Champika Ranawaka, Roshan Ranasinghe/ Arjuna Ranatunge among others.

Many of these smaller groups are most likely to strike up alliances with the bigger parties. How individuals like Dilith Jayaweera and Dhammika Pererea will be able to distance themselves from the negative records of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency whom they backed to the hilt remains to be seen.

There are other parliamentarians who were in the forefront of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa-SLPP trying to hide behind the alternative political formations getting ready to face the polls. This will blur the issues further and could result in the voter being pushed into making wrong decisions with disastrous consequences for the country.


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Disclaimer: Voters facing a confusing political landscape as country heads for elections - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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