In House Of Cards, Frank Underwood schemes his way into unelected power but finds it hard to actually govern. Then he runs headlong into an election he may lose. Ranil Wickremesinghe is in a similar position.
The Caretaker Governor
Ranil has been appointed Prime Minister but he hasn’t won an election for 14 years. He was actually something of a joke until Mahinda imploded.
President Sirisena gave Ranil power, but he doesn’t have any mandate of his own. What he heads is basically a caretaker government between elections.
That’s why something like the Central Bank bond scandal hits him so hard. It’s like a valet driver crashing the car. You had one job dude, one job.
In His Defense
Ranil defense is that Mahinda was worse and other people are worse but, honestly, that’s not the point. Ranil was appointed by the President to clean up the political system. If something dodgy happens he just has to take the lumps like everybody else. Hence I think this part of his speech in Parliament falls flat:
The media says that the Private Sector has lost confidence in the Government. The people have lost faith in the private sector, so have I. It is about time for the Private Sector to decide whether they can work in a modern transparent system or depart. I would be calling you up soon. (via Colombo Telegraph)
What on earth does Ranil know about the will of the people? He hasn’t won an election since 2001 and he has no direct mandate. It doesn’t mean he’s wrong, but he’s simply not in a position to write off the media and private sector as if they aren’t composed of, you know, people.
The Central Bank bond issue does look like insider trading and it should be investigated like everything else. To their credit, a panel is investigating and the Central Bank Governor has taken leave. Sirisena is wisely staying above the fray on this but Ranil isn’t. In the end I think this just makes him look silly. Ranil can’t really say the private sector and private media are wrong because A) he doesn’t know and B) that’s not his job.
His job is to fix the Constitution, the elections system and basically clean house before Avurudu. I think Ranil is intelligent, experienced and very well suited for that vitally important work. In that regard I think President Sirisena has chosen his Prime Minister well.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, however, has not been elected as a national leader and he doesn’t even head the majority party. Until he wins an election of his own, I think he could dial back the attitude.