Man, I’m really not looking forward to this election. Elections suck in a normal year, what with the the faces of unattractive people plastered everywhere and the loudspeakers and occasional violence. Elections where the opposition has effectively conceded a decade ago are just depressing. The sad fact is and remains that the most viable opposition candidate – Ranil Wickremesinghe – has no hope of winning.
One Side Isn’t Even Playing
Ranil was cool in 2001, competitive in 2005 but after losing he never stepped down and allowed the UNP to rebuild itself. He sat out the election in 2010 (the first time in Sri Lankan history that the UNP hasn’t run) and the opposition has atrophied even further. There’s talk of a common candidate, but unless that common candidate is the next Buddha I don’t see it going anywhere.
And The Game Is Rigged
In addition to one side not even playing, this political game is completely rigged. The person in power can call the election when they choose, and Mahinda has been leading up to election time by announcing a bunch of spending on the national credit card (ports, roads, highways, new Colombo stuff, etc) and a bunch of other give-aways (reduced electricity and gas prices). These amount to election incentives and they’re hard to beat.
Of course, this doesn’t include the rampant use of state resources (from buses to offices to police) during elections, or the use of violence.
Plus Mahinda Is Actually Pretty Good
In addition to the unfair advantages he has, Mahinda also has some fair ones. As far as Sri Lankan leaders go (low bar) he’s been pretty good. Probably the best. He’s less racist than JR, whose government precipitated and ignored the 1983 riots, as well as less dictatorial (JR’s mangled Constitution gave birth to this regal Executive Presidency). He’s more productive than CBK or anyone really, none of whom could end the war or create actual development. He’s less murderous than Premadasa, more awake than Wijetunga and less economically disastrous than Srimavo.
In Mahinda’s time we have seen unprecedented growth and prosperity and comparatively less violation of human rights and civil liberties than usual. Which is a really sad and desperately low bar – the benchmark being outright war and bodies burning in the streets, ie, not how a country should measure itself.
I still consider Mahinda’s government almost completely unethical, deeply corrupt and generally uncool, but as far as awful Sri Lanka leaders go, he’s not so bad. Given another 6 years, Sri Lanka would certainly have stability and would likely grow into a quite prosperous country, although not the best it could be.
Why wouldn’t I vote for Mahinda? Well, honestly, ‘good’ leaders of this type have no sort of error correction when they really go bad, and they tend to go bad a few terms in. I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.
That still isn’t much of a rallying cry for the opposition. What a pointless and sad election this will be.