Red district, green district. Green means go. Graphic from the United National Party site
There are a lot of internal polls going around (“Uh, whaddya you think? I dunno”) and one seems to have been leaked to the Hindustan Times. It shows that Mahinda has support in the south and not much else. The SLFP when it’s won has won across Sri Lanka, but since Mahinda threw in his lot with the JVP, he’s running a southern campaign. When it comes to uniting the country he seems a bit qualified because he’s down by 100% in Mannar, 70% in Nuwara Eliya, etc. The furthest Ranil is down anywhere is 46% in Matara. He has a much wider base of support and is much more qualified to lead the country, rather than get let around by the JVP like a dressed up donkey.
One notable problem is that I’ve heard postal votes are coming in low from Jaffna. That would be bad. There is apparently one LTTE faction calling for a boycott of the election, but the LTTE has so far remained neutral. An extremist Mahinda/JVP led government would give them international leverage and the justification to fight for a seperate state, but Ranil had them locked in negotiations. Unclear who they’d support. All minority Sri Lankans really have to get out and vote to preserve their rights for the future.
A survey conducted in late October by a reputed international opinion poll agency (name withheld on request), shows that Rajapaksa is 26 percentage points ahead of Wickremesinghe in Humbantota; 46 percentage points ahead in Matara; 29 percentage points ahead in Moneragala; and 7 percentage points ahead in Galle.
Tough fight outside deep south
But outside the Ruhuna region, Rajapaksa’s support base is uneven. In some, he fares badly; in others, he has a good lead; while in most, the gap is narrow.
Rajapaksa has an eight percentage point lead in Gampaha; 14 percentage point lead in Kalutara; 21 percentage point lead in Matale; 2 percentage point lead in Kurunegala; and 2 percentage point lead in Kegalle.
But he does badly in Kandy, with his rival, Wickremesinghe, ahead by 20 percentage points there. Wickremesinghe is ahead by 70 percentage points in Nuwara Eliya; 17 percentage points in Puttalam; 6 percentage points in Colombo; 3 percentage points in Anuradhapura; 33 percentage points in Polonnaruwa; 7 percentage points in Badulla; and 7 percentage points in Ratnapura.
North-East backs Wickremesinghe
In the Tamil-Muslim dominated North Eastern districts, Wickremesinghe is streets ahead of Rajapaksa. Wickremsinghe is 29 percentage points ahead in Jaffna; 96 percentage points ahead in Vavuniya; 100 percentage points ahead in Mannar; 18 percentage points ahead in Trincomalee; 38 percentage points ahead in Batticaloa and 10 percentage points ahead in Amparai.
While the Muslims of the rest of Sri Lanka seem to be solidly behind Wickremesinghe, the Muslims of the North East are at least partly with Rajapaksa because of the latter’s more aggressive stance towards the LTTE.
The Muslims of the North East feel discriminated against and oppressed by the LTTE. This is reflected in Wickremesinghe’s smaller lead in districts with a large Muslim population like Trincomalee and Amparai.
While in the deep south, Rajapaksa has the advantage of being a “local man”, in the rest of the Sinhala-dominated districts, he has to appeal to people on other grounds. In the latter areas, Wickremesinghe does not face the handicap of not being a local man. The playing field is more even.
In the non-deep south districts, Rajapaksa is trying to project himself as a true Sinhala-Buddhist/non-urban/simple man of the masses, without a tinge of Westernisation. But it is yet to be seen if such a projection or portrayal is enough to swing Sinhala-Buddhist votes in such a way that Wickremesinghe is beaten decisively in this all-Island contest.
Economic or bread and butter issues may well be holding the key outside the deep south. If this is so, Wickremesinghe may score over Rajapaksa simply because he is in the opposition, and Rajapaksa has an anti-incumbency factor to contend with. Wickremesinghe has been campaigning on economic issues rather than on ethnic issues. “Bread and butter issues are more important for the masses than ethnic issues,” he says.
Wickremesinghe has the solid support of the minorities, principally Sri Lankan Tamils, Indian origin Tamils, Muslims and Christians. But still, he has to have a good chunk of the Sinhala-Buddhist votes to become the next President of Sri Lanka. Therefore, the Sri Lankan presidential election of November 17 is essentially a battle for the Sinhala-Buddhist vote (Hindustan Times)
Compare it to this hysterical and racists JHU ad, branding minority leaders as traitors. Notice that the corner of the south Mahinda sold his soul for isn’t included. Let us all follow Hambantota’s development model now.