By Dhanuka Dickwella
Summary – “On the 20th July Sri Lankan parliament will vote to elect a new President. There are four contenders & the article is to analyze each ones fortunes & to see what challenges lies ahead of their journey”
If Machiavelli was alive he would rewrite “ The Prince” looking at what is going on in Sri Lanka. The power struggles between citizens & rulers & between the rulers themselves are at an epic level.
The mighty Rajapaksa family’s rule was brought to an end. Now there is a political jockeying to select a President within the parliamentary system. Simply the person with the simple majority from the elected, current parliamentarians would be the next president in Sri Lanka until an election is called. There are four contenders with completely different political views & competing interests.
Anura Kumara Dissanayaka aka AKD is representing the Marxist ideology & has only three members from his own party. He and his party did a remarkable job in exposing various crimes of all sorts by the previous regime. They helped reveal major political scams & fraudulent deals done by Rajapaksa family , their henchmen & various ministers. It wouldn’t be too much to say that these revelations helped shaped the people’s movement to some extent. Contrary to the party’s comparatively better records over the past years they will be unable to garner a substantial support to make a dent in this contest.
Dulles Alahapperuma who was a former minister under Rajapaksa regime is a known name among the political circles. He has the backing of the rebel Parliamentary group who broke off from the SLPP at the very beginning. There could be some support from his own party as well as a fraction of SLFP. Yet the fundamental challenge is the stance of his own party’s decision to support the candidacy of the acting President Ranil Wickremasinghe. Dulles, who is known to be an honest politician would not reach the helm of the political ladder since the deal makers & the king makers do not consider him to be a part of their circle. He will most likely end up being the second runner up of the race.
Sajith Premadasa who lost the last Presidential race to the then candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa could be a close competitor has a party of his own with more votes than the previous two to support him. Certain factors within the SLPP might vote for him too. The news is that Sajith would appoint someone from the SLPP as the prime minister to secure their votes. This could pay off well. Minority parties could align with him & he could pose a clear challenge. Yet there are uncertainties within his own ranks. Powerful politicians such as Patali Ranwaka & certain factions who sympathize with their ex-boss Ranil Wickremasinghe might all but help Sajith in this contest. Some of his party members have a record of changing loyalties & he surrounded by some of the well known opportunists. Yet he could be the strongest challenger to the winner.
Ranil Wickremasinghe seems to be the forerunner of the race. There are dozens of reasons for this. The SLPP majority could trust Ranil over all the other candidates. Rani would not hamper their interest. Their political capital could be well preserved & the current status quo will not take a u turn. Political instability is bad for social well being as well as for business. The thinking behind supporting Ranil could be the belief that he could change the country’s fortune. The stance he took to quell the anarchical behavior at the peak of the 09th July events were commended by most from both sides of the isle. Former president Maithreepala Sirisena’s decision to not to openly endorse any candidate would clearly play into the hands of Ranil. Most of those Parliamentarians in Maithree’s party have worked with Ranil in the Yahapalana government & they surely could find a common place with him. His promise to help rebuild the destroyed houses of the former government ministers would not go unnoticed by them. The feeling among Sri Lanka’s affluent business community is that , Sri Lanka has reached its crunch point & now it is time to recollect & move forward. It is no surprise that they would back Ranil’s candidacy with open arms. Needless to say that power & money works hand in hand. The influence of the business community will be felt in this hotly contested race.
The vote will be not an open casting but a secret ballot. This is one reason to make the final result completely unpredictable until announced. Although various loyalties have already been announced, back & forth deals among parties have been made , a secret vote is a secret vote. It could be a completely unexpected finale too. Sri Lankan politics is such.
Irrespective of who comes to power it will not be a cake walk. There are two issues to deal with immediately. Sri Lankans would want to see that the new leader steer the country respecting their demands. Demands vary & there are a lot of them. At least the core demands will have to be met with or a timeline should be presented. While the political aspirations of the people are being addressed the ruined economy will have to be slowly but steadily rebuilt. A robust plan would have to be presented & capable people should be allocated to perform those duties.
There are already warnings by Marxist fractions that they will not let Ranil lead the country as the president. There are anarchical fractions who would want to make gains on chaos. Whether or not they will manage to get popular support is unclear as of now. The Aragalaya core group does not seem to be interested in challenging the constitutional law. In general citizens are tired & they need a break. There is very little appetite for relentless & endless protest movements among the majority of Sri Lankans now. Besides, whoever is elected will be elected as per the constitution. So it is the duty of law-abiding citizens to honor that.
However , whoever comes to the helm of Sri Lanka’s political establishment will have to remember that the mighty Rajapkas rule was ended by none other than the People themselves. People do have their power & now they know it. So it will be of paramount importance to address the unbearable grievances of millions of citizens at the very earliest & set things in motion. Over promising & under delivering could cause the collapse of any rule unexpectedly.