Sri lankan parliamentary elections-landslide for Rajapaksi brothers-opposition trounced

 Humiliating defeat for former ruling United National Party

                                                  

The Rajapaksa brothers have won landslide victory in Sri Lanka's parliamentary elections held on 5th August. The Sri Lankan people’s Freedom Alliance (SLPFA) led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his elder brother and interim Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa won two thirds majority in the parliament. SLPFA won 145 seats in the house of 225. While their allies won 05 seats thus giving ruling alliance 150 seats.  

The opposition UNP was routed and faced worst defeat of its history. UNP won just one seat. The United National Party (UNP), led by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, entered the polls on the back of years of misgovernance and, more recently, infighting that saw it split into two separate parties ahead of the polls.

The economic crisis and decline in the growth rate play important role in the humiliated defeat of former ruling party SNP. Sri Lanka's economy contracted by 1.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 amid COVID-19 restrictions and is predicted to shrink by an overall 4 per cent this year, in what would be its worst performance in more than 50 years. 

 The president and his brother promised to fix the economy and to provide the security to citizens. The Rajapaksa brothers used the church attack during Easter ceremony by a Muslim extremist group to whip up the Sinhala nationalism.  

In February, the UNP's presidential candidate in the November presidential election, Sajith Premadasa, formed the Samagi Jana Balawegaya, breaking away from the UNP and taking the majority of the party's members of Parliament with him. The new party won 54 seats in the parliament and emerged as the main opposition party.

                                              

The election was  due in November but postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic. In the presidential election held in November 2019, Gotabaya Rajapaksa won with overwhelming majority. The victory of SLPP was expected but it was not clear that it will get the two thirds majority needed to amend the constitution. 

Gotabaya is hugely popular among the Sinhala majority for crushing the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels in 2009 when he was defence secretary. Many in the country also credit his administration for bringing stability and successfully containing the coronavirus outbreak.

A surge in Sinhala nationalism in the run-up to the election also worried Sri Lanka's minority communities. Muslim leaders said their community was still reeling from the vilification that followed the devastating Easter Sunday suicide attacks by Islamist militants last year which killed more than 260 people.

The turnout was bit low compare to the last elections, mainly due to the measures imposed for the safety and heath of voters. Sri lanka has become the first country in south Asia to conduct the general elections in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic. 
The left wing parties once again failed to make big impact. The left failed to secure a single seat in the parliament. Left was once a dominating force in Sri Lankan politics. LSSP was a mass party in 1970s and 80s. It is a clear indication that left is on the decline. 

Gotabaya Rajapaksa had sought, and achieved, a two-thirds majority for his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party and its allies to be able to restore full executive powers to the presidency, a move analysts say could push the country toward authoritarianism.

Currently, significant power is bestowed on parliament and the prime minister after a previous government led by the now-opposition amended the constitution and set up independent commissions to oversee the police and the judiciary, among other arms of the government.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 71, said the restoration of full executive powers was necessary to implement his agenda to make the country of 21 million economically and militarily secure. No timeline has been set for such a move.

                                                    

The controversial Rajapaksa family has dominated Sri Lankan politics for two decades. Mahinda Rajapaksa was previously president, from 2005 to 2015. Rajapaksa considered closer to China and West opposed him during his last term. This election result is a set back for India as pro India and pro-west parties lost badly. He brutally repressed the opposition, media and judiciary. 

There are fears among the journalists, human rights activists and independent intellectuals about the possible authoritarian and repressive measures against critics and media. The bitter memories of his authoritarian and repressive measures and policies are still fresh among opposition politicians, Tamil activists and journalists. 

Activists, already alarmed by the diminishing space for dissent and criticism, fear such an eventuality could lead to ever greater authoritarianism.

In November, Gotabaya ran on a platform explicitly aimed at the island's 70 percent ethnic Sinhalese majority, most of whom are Buddhist. His campaign was based on promising strong security policies, and it empowered several hardline Buddhist monks who had often made statements targeting the country's Muslim minority.

The fears are growing that after a tight grip on the power, the Rajapaksa government might go after Muslim and Tamil minorities to please the hardline extremist Buddhist Monks.  

                                                                     Khalid Bhatti   

1 comment:

  1. U R Right extreme faciast Group in Muslim, Tamils & Sinhalies can have Clashes if ruling party Will encourages.

    ReplyDelete

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