2011 Local Government elections. I’m focusing on the north. Sunday Times graphic
Despite pretty vigorous rigging efforts by the government, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won most of the seats in the north. The final count was UPFA (govt) – 45, TNA 18, TULF (another Tamil party) 2. The government won the overall vote count based on elections in the south, but all the attention was on the north. Despite bribery and dubiousness, people still voted for the TNA.
These elections are for local government but the government at least took them quite seriously. What are the lessons?
One is that elections are unfree, unfair, but still unpredictable. TNA candidates dogs were killed and people had their polling cards taken, but voting still happened. The government offered serious bribes ranging from farming equipment to cash (rumored), but they still lost. So the election system does vaguely work. This means that there is a some sort of room within a political system.
Niran Ankatell early tweeted that
23 July: Systematic disenfranchisement of Tamils will leave them with no option but to work outside system/seek international remedies #lka #NLGE
Then post election:
24 July: First post-war outpouring of pride within Tamil community at home and abroad. Great moment. Much needed boost to beleaguered community #NLGE
He seems to think that people voted based on war crimes while others are saying it was about local issues (it was for local government), but as long as people see some hope within the Sri Lankan system it’s all good.
Another lesson is that the United National Party is completely dead and that its leader – Ranil Wickremesinghe – should step down. I think this is like 15 lost elections for him. I’ve lost count. As MP Rosy Senanayake said:
Ms. Senanayake said the ‘wait-and-see’ attitude and the indecisive and ill-thought out policies of the party leader have played a significant role – and as such, it is a time for the buck to stop passing. “The party leader must accept responsibility and must look within himself as to how such a verdict was given by the voter against all commonsense thought,” she added.
The biggest threat to democracy is not the rigging and intimidation of the government, but that the main opposition party is leaving it to smaller parties like the TNA and JVP to fight it. And yet they’re winning, in parts. Imagine how things would be different if the UNP leadership changed?