I just read an interesting report from the Social Scientists Association. They polled 1,500 people across Sri Lanka on a variety of issues, from how they felt about the economy to the ethnic issue to the current government.
It’s a short, well-presented report. What I’ll do is compare what the main parties are running on (IMHO) and how that compares to how the public feels. This blog post is obviously told through my opinion (want to continue the good governance thing rather than going backwards), but the report should stand on its own.
Let’s try this again – racism and infrastructure!
The UPFA, as basically led by Mahinda now, can be sorta judged by what Mahinda said. Mahinda has said that power was taken from him by minorities, and that development has slowed down since he left. How much does that message resonate?.
The Sinhala Feels
On other questions like whether the Sinhala community has been ignored, most people said they disagreed. Including most Sinhala people.
The Buddhist Feels
Overall the religions seem happy, however, if you look at the breakdown by religion, 14% of Buddhist do feel like their religion has been undermined. How I don’t know, but it’s a constant insecurity. Other religions do feel more protected now. That said, the vast majority of Buddhists feel like their religious interests have been ensured more or stayed the same.
The danger playing the religion card is that you can’t piss off all of the minorities at once and win a general election. When Mahinda won in the past it was with a good amount of Muslim support.
The Ethnic Feels
Regarding how ethnic communities feel, I’m just showing the total number here. If you break it down, 18.7% of Sinhalese felt like their interests have been undermined compared to 35% that thought they were the same and 29.7% that thought they were ensured.
There has always been an angle to run on racism in Sri Lanka and there is an angle here. If most people don’t care about the rights of the minorities then the Sinhala/Buddhist chauvinists could swing things. So do people care?
The Sri Lankan Feels
I was heartened to see this, that the vast majority of people thinks that the government should do more to protect minorities.
People seem to actually care about good ethnic relations and they say that the trust this government, under Maithripala Sirisena, to keep improving them.
The other big thing that Mahinda ran on was all these big infrastructure projects.
In this case while people may broadly agree that infrastructure projects have deteriorated, the real question is whether people ever liked big, often corrupt infrastructure projects as much as Mahinda and his cronies did. Last election they didn’t.
The UNP led United National Front, also know as the United National Front For Good Governance, is running to basically continue the work of the last election.
Good governance and cost of living
The UNF is broadly running on continuing their 100 day (plus) plans of reforming the government, not necessarily building stuff, with attention to improving the daily situation of people. How is that going?
Good Governance FTW?
People seem to generally feel more free than before. I certainly do, seeing as criminals and goons are the ones in trouble with the law, rather than in control of it. Few people say they’re feeling less free.
49% of people think the rule of law situation has improved and less than 10% think it’s gotten worse.
People seem generally satisfied. 56.6% of respondents, actually, which is better than they polled.
Cost Of Living FTW?
The other major issue they ran on last time and presumably this time was addressing the cost of living concerns that affect people more than an airport or cricket stadium in their neighborhood.
When the January 8th government came in they prioritized a lot of immediate relief in their budget, and it seems like people have felt it. Which matters. How does that directly translate into the situation of individual families?
The most people say their personal economic situation hasn’t changed, followed by people that feel it’s gotten a little better.
So read the report, first off. My impressions are that this current government’s approval ratings are pretty high and that racism and ethnic/religious division aren’t as potent wedges as the UPFA is hoping. I hope they aren’t, and that we can continue the good governance thing. Not that the UNP is great governance by any stretch, but they are subject to checks and balances and public pressure more than the naturally dictatorial Mahinda and the dodgy buggers around him. But that’s just my opinion. The SSA survey results, as mentioned, are interesting on their own.