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Sri Lanka general election a referendum on Rajapaksa misrule

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My assessment is that family concerns have pushed the former strongman to mount what is undoubtedly a no holds barred chauvinist campaign to win over his core constituency. His manifesto, titled "Assurance for the Future", declares: "We will not allow separatists, encouraged by foreign forces, to destroy this land gained through the sacrifice of blood and tears of the war heroes."

In rally after rally, Rajapaksa has been asking rhetorically: "Are you going to vote to divide this country". He has been targeting the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which rules Tamil North, for seeking greater provincial autonomy, and clamoring for a federal state, invoking danger to national security "from symptoms of revival in Tiger militancy".

There is one clear give-away to the lurking fears in the Rajapaksa camp that national security is no longer an issue.

It is their populist proposals.

One such plank, dubbed as an extravagant promise, is an allowance of Rs. 50,000 to youth above the age of 18 and Rs. 10,000 allowance for students selected to universities for purchasing books. Steep hikes in basic salaries are promised to public sector employees.
As noted commentator, W. A. Sunil observes, the irony is difficult to miss since Rajapaksa had neglected education and health sectors and made the employees tighten their belt.

No surprise as the ballot day nears, opinion surveys do not share the confidence of the Rajapaksa camp.

Voting for the 225-member Parliament is by proportional representation system. The country is divided into 22 electoral districts which send in all 196 members. The remaining 29 MPs are elected from National Lists allocated to the parties and independent groups in proportion to their share of the national vote.

The North is made up of two multi-member electoral districts: Jaffna, which elects nine law makers and Vanni, which sends six members to Parliament

The Tamil North has no reason to favour Rajapaksa, all the more so as the landscape is still dotted by army camps that serve as grim reminders of his rule.

Sirisena-Ranil have not endeared themselves to the Tamilians but there is grudging admission that they have walked the talk to dismantle these army structures while ensuring that there is no alarm in the Sinhala South.

On Sunday, Aug 9, Rajapaksa told the media pundits in Colombo that his alliance, UFPA, would easily secure more than 113 seats. "The number may even go beyond 117 according to our surveys", he said, and declared that for him there would be no need to form a national government.

Frankly, his optimism does not to gel with poll forecasts which appear to have factored in President Sirisena's declaration at the very outset that he would not invite Rajapaksa to form the new government "even if he gets elected".

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A blogger since July 2008 James Duglous Crickton is a London based consultant working with a consultancy firm focusing on Asia, particularly South Asia and East Asia. Political Research is his functional focus area. While his interests are (more...)
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