I’ve been going thru the election results for the recent local government elections. While the UNP got the most votes, they’ve lost their majority in Colombo and their presence here is on a steady decline. Note that they’ve already lost the suburbs (Kotte, Dehiwela) and, of course, the rest of the country. They’re also losing minority votes in Colombo, and in the North and East, which have their own parties.
I voted SLFP in the last election, but I’m not an SLFPer. I’ve always identified with the UNP more, but they’re not really the UNP anymore. As you can see, after Ranil lost the Presidential in 2005, the party has gone into steady decline. They’ve bled people and ideas, such that they essentially ran on trishaws and keeping things the same.
The Decreasing Gap
Above I’ve included available data from all the major elections this century. That’s weird to say. At one point, it was basically impossible for the UNP to lost Colombo. The gap in the 2001 Parliamentary election was 130,000 votes. In the 2010 Parliamentary it was less than 60,000 and in the 2011 Local it was less than 25,000. This is part of a steady decline.
From 2010 to 2011 (different elections, same electorate) the UNP is down 37% in Colombo West, 34% in Colombo North and 23% overall. Only in Borella did they even maintain.
Seeing the gap between these two parties close doesn’t give me any pride. It’s not like SLFP policies suddenly got better. The UNP has just been losing votes and the SLFP has been running candidates that crossed over. It’s just completely self-inflicted pain.
As you can see, after Ranil lost the Presidential in 2005, he should have stepped down. That would have given the party a chance to rebuild itself. Instead, he’s just been slowly bleeding it to death. This has two components, one, voters lose heart and stop voting. Two, the people they voted for have crossed over to the government. As another wildcard, Ranil has also simply sat out or messed up multiple elections – the UNP elephant was not even on the ballot in the last Presidential race or the penultimate mayoral.
Hence, all of these UPFA gains are basically from UNP losses, not from any net value addition or even special effort on their part. Support everywhere is declining, especially in the huge Colombo Central area.
It is also important to note, that this is literally all the UNP has left. The suburbs are gone, the north and east are gone and the south is completely vamoose. My preference in this recent election was Milinda Moragoda (formerly UNP, now UPFA) and Mano Ganeshan (formerly UNF/UNP and now with his own party). Indeed, those two together formed a majority of votes cast.
Thus, I wouldn’t say this is a good election for the UNP, though they won. What’s more telling is how much they’ve lost, and will continue to lose, until they select a new leader.