Who will win the 2015 Sri Lanka presidential election
This article was published earlier we are publishing a part of it to educate the reader about the outcome, please follow the final paragraph closely.
Sri Lankans generally vote heavily on ethnic lines. The Sri Lankan Tamils, especially since the end of the war, have demonstrated serious hostility towards the government and supported the TNA. In the Northern provincial council election the TNA secured about 80 percent of the total votes cast in the predominantly Tamil province. In the presidential election one can expect the Tamils to vote for the candidate endorsed by the TNA and TNA will not be able to support Mahinda Rajapaksa. The TNA will find it easy to endorse the UNP if Ranil Wickremesinghe is the candidate. Therefore, Rajapaksa cannot count on the Sri Lankan Tamil vote.
There is also a heavy concentration of Tamils in the Western province. The Western province Tamils traditionally vote with the UNP. In the recent past however the Democratic People’s Front, headed by Mano Ganesan, has taken control of a large chunk of this block of votes. One reason why Ganesan was able to secure the support of the Colombo Tamils is that he is seen as a pro-UNP personality. He is already working with the UNP and likely to formally endorse the UNP. The President’s standing within this block of votes is also weak.
The Sri Lankan Muslim community favored Mahinda Rajapaksa in the last presidential election and their votes, in the recent past, tend to go to the government because all of the Muslim parties are with the government currently. The Muslim dissatisfaction of the government however seems to be growing due to the recent ethnic clashes against the Muslim community. It is widely believed that Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), which is spearheading the anti-Muslim campaign, has the blessings of some of the leading elements within the government. Many Muslims believe that the government is unwilling to arrest the anti-Muslim activities of the BBS. This could easily channel the Muslim votes towards the UNP. It is imperative to note that two of the Muslim parties which are part of the government teamed up and contested the Uva election separately precisely because they knew that the Muslim votes cannot be garnered under the government symbol. The Democratic Unity Alliance (DUA) however, could not win a single seat in the Uva province. Therefore, the majority of the Muslim votes will go to the UNP.
Even in the Badulla district minority voting behavior could differ between a provincial election and the presidential election. In the Badulla district the India Tamils form about 18 percent of the total population. The Indian Tamils probably voted for the government in the Uva election because their own candidates were contesting under the government symbol. In the presidential election however they could and most probably will vote for the UNP. For example, in the 2010 presidential election the Indian Tamil majority Nuwara Eliya district went to Sarath Fonseka. In the Nuwara Eliya district Fonseka gained 52.14 percent of the vote and Rajapaksa managed only 43.77 votes. Therefore, in a presidential election the governing party is unlikely to get what it gained in the Badulla district in September 2014.
The point is, Mahinda Rajapaksa will not have adequate support from the minority communities in the forthcoming presidential election. This leads us to the pertinent question, can Mahinda Rajapaksa win the presidential election with only the Sinhala votes. Given the prevailing realities, Rajapaksa can win only if he has about 65 percent of the Sinhala votes. The ruling party was able to gain only 58.34 percent of the votes in the predominantly Sinhala district of Moneragala in the Uva election. Also, Moneragala is President Rajapaksa’s home turf. Therefore, it is unlikely that President Rajapaksa can gain the support of about 65 percent of the Sinhala votes.
Meanwhile, it is imperative to note that all anti-government votes did not go to the UNP. They also went to the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and a very minor portion to Sarath Fonseka’s Democratic Party (DP). The JVP fielding its own candidate in the forthcoming presidential election would hamper the UNP’s chances of winning. Meanwhile, the JVP will find it difficult to endorse the UNP as well. The DP, given its dismal performance in the Uva election, could be convinced to join the UNP under a grand opposition alliance. Therefore, in a free and fair election, Ranil Wickremesinghe has a very good chance of winning if the UNP can form an alliance with the DP and the JVP, or convince the JVP to stay away from the election, while accommodating the minority groups.
(Dr. S. I. Keethaponcalan is Chair of the Conflict Resolution Department, Salisbury University, Maryland. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).