Friday, 9 January 2015

Presidential Election | A Clear Mandate from People with a Strong Message.

The common candidate of the opposition Mr. Maithreepala Sirisena has secured a resounding victory in the presidential election held yesterday (8th). Apart from winning traditional UNP strongholds the president elect has managed to edge out his opponent by huge margins within the majority of the urban electorates in the south plus the north and the east. The large scale efforts by the government to woo the Sinhalese rural voters by means of propaganda designed to spread fears of another Ealam war in the event the opposition wins seems to have resonated well within these voters. Government media upon which the rural population place a higher credibility, kept harping on the importance of the executive presidency in ending the war and maintaining the country's status quo as a unitary state. In spite of the grave violations of the election laws related to the use of state media and state resources by the government MS backed by the newly formed alliance managed to secure victory by a reasonable margin.

Some of the ultra-nationalists have already started uttering racist sentiments, pointing out that given the amount of support MS has got from the minority voters, the majority Sinhalese will be sidelined and he will have to act according to the whims of separatist forces. However considering the fact that the joint opposition's decision to keep the provincial councils under the purview of the President and the fact that the main architects of the War victory (JHU, Gen. Fonseka) are key partners of the joint opposition, we can assume that such developments are highly unlikely. On the other hand government has only themselves to blame for failing to secure the support of the Muslims who had to face a series of attacks by BBS backed by the government in a bid to get cheap political mileage among their rural Sinhala Buddhist vote base. As far as the Tamil voters are concerned the government failed to address their issues related to resettlement and reconciliation, they were ignored simply because of the sense of complacency that was created within the government ranks that they can win any election by reinforcing the rural Sinhala vote base by spreading racial disharmony and mistrust.

One remarkable factor which helped the joint opposition victory was the widespread use of social media to undermine the government propaganda that was channeled through state media. Credit should go to Janatha Vmukthi Peramuna (JVP) led by Mr. Anura Kumara Dissanayake for keeping the masses informed through social media with his simple but sharp rhetoric. Mr. Dissanayake's efforts gave fresh impetus to the somewhat lukewarm efforts from the main opposition UNP (barring a handful of active individuals) which eventually found its way back on track during the latter half of the presidential campaign. It is a very positive sign for the democracy of this country that the people power prevailed over the might of state media propaganda.

What is even more remarkable is the fact that this phenomenon of emerging people power sends out a strong message along with their mandate to the opposition; that is the consequences that even someone like Mahinda Rajapakse who created himself a cult-like image after war victory will have to face if they go off track. One would think that Ranil, Chandrika and Maithreepala being astute and seasoned politicians would take this message seriously and start working towards the promises given to the people from day one, instead of learning the lesson the hard way.