So, that happened. It must be tough for Mahinda. No matter how he tries to hold this political bag of cats together, someone always pops out. Last time it was Sarath Fonseka, from the Army. Now it’s Maithripala Sirisena, from the SLFP.
These are both important bases of power for him. The Army and his own party. Mahinda is a wily old fox and he can definitely win, but Sirisena isn’t a political noob or obvious loose cannon like Fonseka. On a good day Mahinda’s margin of victory would be 5% and with his own party fracturing at the top, it’s suddenly a race.
For a long time people have been saying that the only real opposition would emerge from within the SLFP. Ranil has crashed the UNP, making it a vote bank more than a party that can actually win elections. Any politician with a brain and mouths to feed has crossed to the SLFP, even if they weren’t happy there.
At the same time, Mahinda has turned the SLFP into a bit of a personal fiefdom as well. People that cross over have tended to get plum positions, over people that have been with the party forever. Furthermore, the vast majority of the budget is controlled by him and his family (the Ministries of Finance, Defence, Ports/Aviation, Law & Order for Mahinda and Economic Development for Basil). Ministers get cars and stuff, but Mahinda’s sons have more power.
Old-school SLFPers haven’t been happy for a while, but it’s still a pretty big risk for Maithripala to come at the throne like this.
Who is this guy? Don’t really know. His son has only thrashed a bugger once, which is good I guess. He’s the Minister Of Health and the General Secretary of the SLFP, he’s from Polonnaruwa and polled 90,000 preferential votes in the 2010 General, 75% of his party’s voters giving him the nod. He’s been in politics since 1989.
His Platform and crew
Word on the street is that a bunch of SLFPers are going to jump ship with him. I’ve heard 15 but who knows. The question is, where are they jumping ship to? Will they run under the UNP? Will they run as an independent party?
So far his platform is abolishing the Executive Presidency within 100 days, but while that’s a good idea, it’s also highly impractical. If he abolishes his job, the Prime Minister would be the leader, and who would that be? If he wanted to preserve the peoples mandate he’d need to abolish the Presidency at a certain date, dissolve Parliament, run for Parliament, win that election, be appointed PM, and then tada. But what a strange and improbable contortion. Except he’s saying Ranil will be made Prime Minister, which plays into the House Of Tards theory. It seems weird that he’d risk his neck to hand power to Ranil. I don’t know.
Regardless, things have just gotten interesting. No matter how undemocratic Sri Lankan institutions are, no matter how much their rigged to prevent competition, democracy is like a weed here. We’ve survived dictatorial types like JR and Premadasa and even Mahinda has to fight for his pudding. Shit just got real.