Photo by Amantha Perera, Perambara
I heard that there were posters around town citing polling data, saying that Mahinda would get well over 50%. I don’t know, but I think the race is much closer than that. Even in the mood around Colombo, a lot of people are breaking towards General Fonseka. Colombo is all sound and fury, but with the Tamil National Alliance supporting the man, he will get a significant march-to-the-polls Tamil vote. The CWC (Indian Tamil vote broker, basically) seems to be fracturing and the Muslims are already largely in his favor. Plus the Sinhalese is historically split, and there’s no more war wedge to pry it apart. So it’s close.
As far as I can tell, this race is within the margin of error. There are various analyses and polls floating around, but none of them show a landslide for anyone. This is surprising to some extent, Fonseka comes from no party, has no established vote base, and has really one month to campaign. This is in opposition to a guy who’s basically been in permanent campaign mode since he was Prime Minister, backed by a lot of state pomp and lucre.
What you have to remember, however, is that the electorate was really divided in the first place. The last election was about 50/50, and Mahinda’s campaign was way better, plus he was the sitting Prime Minister. Mahinda’s war victory, while bolstering support among the Sinhalese (and Muslims), also had the effect of getting hundreds of thousands of Jaffna voters back online. These are people that would’ve tossed the election to Ranil last time and are unlikely to vote for Mahinda now. Furthermore, General Sarath Fonseka – by virtue of being General Sarath Fonseka – somewhat blunts the war issue and, based on what meagre info I’ve seen – seems to split the Sinhala vote.
So basically Fonseka is in a position to get over fifty percent of minority votes (largely by association) and around 50% of Sinhala votes by status quo. Furthermore, the guy has nothing here, no safe refuge in the US, so somebody must have showed him some shot of winning for him to risk his whole life. I’ve seen bits of information here and there and the race is damn close. So I hope you vote on the 26th. I’m voting for Fonseka.