| by Tisaranee Gunasekara

“We must remember they got their majority vote from Eelam…”
Mahinda Rajapaksa

( January 15, 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) During election season, the UPFA tried to win enough Sinhala votes by inciting minority phobia – and failed. Post-defeat, what the severely-truncated UPFA continues to beat this racist tom-tom, in the hope of making a quick comeback.

In voting out Mahinda Rajapaksa and voting in Maithripala Sirisena, the really existing ethno-religiously pluralist Sri Lanka asserted itself over the imaginary ethno-religiously monolithic Sri Lanka. The defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa was not a Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim enterprise, but a Lankan enterprise.
Ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa led the way by informing supporters in Medamulana that he was defeated because Northern, Eastern and Plantation voters voted against him. That is the truth, but not the whole truth. Mahinda Rajapaksa lost not just because he failed to gain the support of minority communities. Mahinda Rajapaksa lost also because he failed to retain the support of the majority community.

Eric Hobsbwam warned that “bad history is not harmless history” . Mr. Rajapaksa and his hardcore supporters are deliberately trying to fabricate a bad history about the 2015 election. Theirs is a dangerous exercise because their aim is to regain political relevance by creating an unbridgeable divide between majority and minority communities. They want to create a wave of fear and hatred and ride it back to power.

Mahinda Rajapaksa did not have the support of North, East or Plantations, even in 2010 or 2005. Yet he was able to win; he won in 2005 thanks to the Tiger-imposed boycott; he won in 2010 because most Sinhalese voted for him in appreciation for winning the war.

Mahinda Rajapaksa lost in 2015 not just because he lost the minority vote. Mahinda Rajapaksa lost in 2015 also because a large chunk of Sinhala voters who supported him in 2010 voted for the Opposition in 2015; and because an absolute majority of first-time voters voted against him.

The voter-shift from Mahinda Rajapaksa to the Opposition happened all over Sri Lanka, including in every single district outside of North and East. Without that massive shift, Maithripala Sirisena could not have won, even with minority support.

In voting out Mahinda Rajapaksa and voting in Maithripala Sirisena, the really existing ethno-religiously pluralist Sri Lanka asserted itself over the imaginary ethno-religiously monolithic Sri Lanka. The defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa was not a Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim enterprise, but a Lankan enterprise. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder to all political leaders that race-baiting is not only opprobrious but also counterproductive.

2005, 2010 and 2015

In all districts outside of North and East, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s average vote declined between 2015 and 2010 – indicating a substantial-erosion in his voter base.

Table I - Decrease in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s average vote in the districts outside of North and East - 2010 and 2015


District
Decrease in average vote 2010-2015
Colombo
18%
Gampaha
19.7%
Kalutara
16.5%
Kandy
18.3%
Matale
13.9%
Nuwaraeliya
22.8%
Galle
12.6%
Matara
11.8%
Hambantota
6.2%
Kurunegala
15.25%
Puttalam
16.6%
Anuradhapura
20%
Pollonnaruwa
36.4%
Badulla
7.7%
Moneragla
10.95%
Ratnapura
12.6%
Kegalle
16.15%

Mahinda Rajapaksa suffered a far greater setback in postal votes. Postal voters are police and military personnel and government employees engaged in election duties and essential services. Though exact figures are not available, the absolute majority of postal voters are Sinhalese.
In 2005 and 2010, Mahinda Rajapaksa won the postal votes by huge margins. In 2015 he was defeated in postal votes as well. This is an even clearer indication of the erosion of his support among the majority community.

Table II - Decrease in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s postal vote in the districts outside of North and East - 2010 and 2015


District
Decrease in postal votes 2010-2015
Colombo
19.4%
Gampaha
26.52%
Kalutara
22.6%
Kandy
18.3%
Matale
26.7%
Nuwaraeliya
28.45%
Galle
20%
Matara
16.2%
Hambantota
8.9%
Kurunegala
28.6%
Puttalam
26.4%
Anuradhapura
35.45%
Pollonnaruwa
56%
Badulla
22.8%
Moneragla
25.1%
Ratnapura
18.4%
Kegalle
24.2%

As the statistics clearly prove, between 2010 and 2015 Mahinda Rajapaksa’s voter support eroded across the length and breadth of Sri Lanka, including in his own Hambantota. The loss of Rajapaksa electoral-magic was not just a North-East-Plantation phenomenon, as the former President claims. It was truly a Lankan phenomenon.

The votes lost by Mahinda Rajapaksa in the districts outside of North and East were gained by the Opposition, as the massive increase in the Opposition’s total and postal votes, between 2010 and 2015, clearly demonstrates.

Table III - Increase in the Opposition’s vote in the districts outside of North and East – 2010-2015


District
Increase in average vote 2010-2015
Increase in postal vote – 2010-2015
Colombo
21.8%
28.4%
Gampaha
33.7%
56.2%
Kalutara
30.9%
50%
Kandy
24.3%
55.6%
Matale
24.2%
58.9%
N’Eliya
22.5%
57.3%
Galle
24.5%
37.7%
Matara
25.5%
32.5%
Hambantota
15.1%
21.4%
Kurunegala
29%
61.2%
Puttalam
26.4%
53.5%
Anuradhapura
42.2%
90.6%
Pollonnaruwa
71.9%
138.1%
Badulla
10.5%
42.7%
Moneragala
28.7%
58.8%
Ratnapura
25.2%
42.1%
Kegalle
29.1%
50.9%

An even clearer picture of the erosion of the Rajapaksa support-base emerges when Mahinda Rajapaksa’s performance in 2015 is compared with his performance in 2005.

Table IV – Comparative performance of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the districts outside of North and East – 2005-2015


District
2005
2015
Change
Colombo
47.96%
43.4%
-9.5%
Gampaha
54.78%
49.49%
-9.7%
Kalutara
55.48%
52.65%
-5.1%
Kandy
44.3%
44.23%
-0.2%
Matale
48.09%
51.41%
6.9%
N’Eliya
27.97%
34.06%
21.8%
Galle
58.41%
55.64%
-4.7%
Matara
61.85%
57.81%
-6.5%
Hambantota
63.43%
63.02%
-0.7%
Kurunegala
52.26%
53.46%
2.3%
Puttalam
48.14%
48.97%
1.7%
Anuradhapura
55.08%
53.59%
-2.7%%
Pollonnaruwa
52.61%
41.27%
-19.7%
Badulla
45.18%
49.15%
8.8%
Moneragala
56.94%
61.45%
7.9%
Ratnapura
53.01%
55.74%
5.1%
Kegalle
51.02%
51.82%
1.6%

In contrast, the Opposition performed better in 2015 than it did in 2005 in most of the districts outside of North and East. These included all districts of the Southern province, with massive leaps forward in Matara and Galle.

Table V – Comparative performance of the opposition in the districts outside of the North and the East – 2005-2015


District
2005
2015
Change
Colombo
51.12%
55.93%
9.4%
Gampaha
44.23%
49.83%
12.7%
Kalutara
43.2%
46.46%
7.5%
Kandy
54.33%
54.56%
0.4%
Matale
50.25%
47.22%
-6.0%
N’Eliya
70,37%
63.88%
-9.2%
Galle
40.26%
43.37%
7.7%
Matara
36.71%
41.24%
12.3%
Hambantota
35.23%
35.93%
2.0%
Kurunegala
46.72%
45.76%
-2.0%
Puttalam
50.71%
50.04%
-1.3%
Anuradhapura
43.62%
45.44%
4.2%
Pollonnaruwa
46.25%
57.8%
25.0%
Badulla
53.11%
49.21%
-7.3%
Moneragala
41.65%
37.45%
-10.1%
Ratnapura
45.55%
43.01%
-5.6%
Kegalle
47.67%
47.05%
-1.3%

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s losses, not just between 2010 and 2015 but also between 2005 and 2015, were Maithripala Sirisena’s gain. Without those losses, the Opposition would have failed and the Rajapaksas would have prevailed.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated in 2015 because he failed to gain minority support and because he failed to make up for that loss by retaining enough of the Sinhala votes he won in 2010 or even in 2005. 

Mr. Rajapaksa’s dangerously faulty election analysis is an inevitable by-product of his retrogressive and reactionary worldview: Sinhala-Buddhists are the sole owners of Sri Lanka; minorities are not co-owners but mere guests. In his eyes he was defeated by ‘minority-guests’ and not by ‘Sinhala-hosts’. Therefore, in his eyes, his defeat is an illegitimate one. This racist interpretation indicates why Mr. Rajapaksa did not work towards reconciliation and a consensual peace post-war and why he allowed BBS et al to terrorise Muslims and Christians. Rajapaksa-security depended on the majority fearing minorities and minorities fearing the majority. 

Divide and rule was indeed the Rajapaksa way. That is why their loss is the country’s gain.






References;
  1. http://www.gossiplankanews.com/2015/01/mahinda-rajapaksas-medamulana-speech.html#more
  2. Identity History is not enough – On History

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