Agents both foreign and domestic are framing the election as a victory for Tiger-supporters or loss for the government. Personally, I think them simply happening is good for governance, which the Tigers were pretty unilaterally opposed to. To compare, in May 1983 two Tamil UNP candidates were shot dead for defying the LTTE diktat to boycott elections. The voter turnout was one percent in Point Pedro and mara low in Jaffna. There haven’t been proper elections since. This is a local government election and, as deeply flawed as the process was, it’s a start. If people want to stick it to the government that’s great. As long as they’re participating in governance.
Having elections at all is a victory against the Tigers. They rose by killing the Mayor of Jaffna Alfred Duraippah, killing Mayor Sarojini Yogeswaran (after killing her husband), killing Mayor P Sivapalan, government agents, municipal council members, basically anybody who participated in the political process. All those good people with courage and devotion to service are dead and we have to start over from fear and trauma.
So having anybody turn out and vote at all is fine by me, for whoever they want to vote for. 18% turnout (though that number seems low by half, given messed up voter rolls) is still an improvement over the near nothing turnout in the last Presidential election under LTTE boycott.
What sticks out for me is that people voted at all, and that 52% turned out in Vavuniya. What’s even better is that they stuck it to the government, which deserves it. If everyone in the north gets the franchise for the Presidential Elections they can actually vote Mahinda out, seeing as he only won by 200,000 last time. As long as people are voting and not killing each other it’s fine by me.
The elections are deeply flawed, the voter rolls are messed up and a lot of voters are in detention. This is, sadly, a great improvement over the LTTE in that A) people voted and B) the candidates aren’t dead. That is a low bar, but we’ve cleared that at least. Personally, I think participation is the way out, and we have to start somewhere.