Mahinda’s Tamil avatar, from a prior election, 2010
The north of Sri Lanka is having local elections this Saturday. The elections have already seen a candidate’s dog being killed and basically all the opposition parties complaining about intimidation and political use of state funds. So, basically another election.
In Jaffna and Kili, of course, it is worse because the people are more disconnected from power, not used to voting and already surrounded by security forces. This situation is better than life under the LTTE – who simply banned voting all together – but its obviously not good.
My friend Dinidu de Alwis is up there and I spoke to him yesterday. It’s basically the same old story – poster blitz from President Mahinda Rajapaksa, featuring his brother Basil and Tamil MP Douglas Devananda. They apparently bused people into Kilinochchi (from the north) for rallies, as they’ve done in Colombo. Using state transport, according to his sources. There are also reports that they’re disbursing development funds now, as an election bribe. All of this stuff is in violation of law and 50 years actually got election results over-turned. Now it’s somewhat normal.
What’s seems odd about the Jaffna elections is this tweet from Dinidu: ‘Votes list is Jaffna has reduced by 40% from the 2009 voter registration list, to the 2010 list. Explanation? Migration.’ So, um, I assume one could check this with immigration/emigration data. I don’t think it’s just migration. Some of them are dead, some are not resettled and, I think a greater number have been lost in the paperwork. My voter registration didn’t exist for a year while we moved, and that’s in the best of situations. Please note, I don’t think all of those missing were killed in the war. A lot truly did migrate, and Jaffna was not actually a warzone, having been under government control for years before the last push.
The people that do have the vote seem to be voting, which is drastically different from the near nil turnout of the 2005 Presidential election. In that case the LTTE forced everyone to boycott, effectively tossing the election to Mahinda Rajapaksa. So, uh, where was I: “Out of 4902, over 4500 postal votes have been cast, says Jaffna GA” (Dinidu).
If you’re looking for a prediction, the TNA (formerly affiliated with the LTTE) usually wins. They suck in their own myopic way, but they’re not perceived as profiteering sell-out thugs, like Douglas Devananda’s party. The UNP would usually do well in the north, but Opposition Dictator Ranil Wickremesinghe is about as appealing as prawns wrapped in durian and left in a car for seven years. That is, not. Even if the opposition was at full strength, well, then they could compete, but even if the opposition was at half-strength the government is rigging everything except, I think, the ballot box.
So, is this a free and fair election? No. Is it an election? Yes. Sadly, that is what we call incremental progress.
For ongoing stuff following Dinidu’s tweets.