Friday, February 19, 2010
the impending elections - an opinion
Shortly the nominations will open for the general election campaign, and it appears likely that there will be three main groupings. The UPFA under the bulath kolaya symbol, the expected winner, the UNF under the Elephant symbol with the SLMC, and the Mangala wing and the JVP under the tophy symbol with SF as its leader. The TNA are likely to go it alone and therefore keep to their divisive politics that will not help in the one nation future concept, especially if they get an overwhelming majority in the areas they contest.
In my opinion it is a two horse race with the TNA getting the next largest seats, and the JVP only likely to get a couple of seats at best under the National list.
There is no point discussing the names on the UPFA lists as it will be fought hard amongst the UNP turncoats, and the existing SLFP ers, but for them it will not be a case of even fighting the UNP just competing with each other. Already they have put out posters, individuals that is and already they have been pasted over by others of the same party, something quite ridiculous, but that is the way the preferential system has been turned into, one of getting preferences and one's competitor for the slots are only people from one's own party. I suspect there will be a lot of money spent to get the preferences as there will be a lot of money to be made if they are elected to the parliament from the winning side and therefore competition will be immense, and spending will be lavish, as it appears the UPFA coffers are full as well as of the people contesting under this banner.
The UNP appear to be broke, and unlikely to raise much money as it is likely that potential donors will shy away from backing a loser. So sadly those who will be on the lists will be completely on their own to raise their own funds to run their individual campaigns. So it is about the media, about those having access to media and name recognition, and above all having spare cash to spend on their campaign for the 60 to 80 seats they are likely to get.
The problem with the UNP campaign is that there are people on the UNP ticket who can never win, but are on the lists because of them being time servers of the party, and therefore feel entitled to being on the district lists. Those who are more capable of getting more votes and are likely to be able to be positioned 5 years hence to give a good fight will be excluded, In my view, it is most important to the UNP to put in people who are unlikely to be turncoats, and also likely to stay the course to earn a place in the future and not let time servers who by the time they come in to parliament 5 years hence will merely want to benefit financially for having been out of power for a long time. They are the least desirable types one would want to be in politics as it will be politics as usual.
It does not seem that the leadership has foresight to think that far and get people with the capability of staying the course and determined to fight for the country and justice in the long term and not their pocket books. Further it also does not look like they are able to cobble together a manifesto that is truly farsighted and will only try to be populist to counter the UPFA steamroller, and therefore lack credibility as it would merely be thought of as a gimmick and not based on realistic assesments of the need for investment over subsidy to the electorate.
I believe the media campaigns and name recognition are the future in Sri Lankan politics and there is no unified media campaign on the part of the UNF to even rmotely counter the powerful state sponsored UPFA juggernaut. So any result that gives the UNF even 45% of the popular vote should be considered a great victory, a phyrric one nevertheless under the circumstances.
I believe therefore that a realistic strategy should be adopted, one with not just this election, but one that takes account of the likely horses poised for the following election in choosing the names for the district lists.
Hire me to vet the candidates and give an independent opinion of whether they can stay the course and true to a principled and disciplined plan to stay the course during a lean patch for the party. You will be surprised how many of the old guard who will be on the list to be sidelined. The most important result of this election should be about who is likely to be the leader of the UNP at the following general election, based on the preferences and electability of that person at this election.