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Sri Lanka: Challenges Encountering at the Presidential Poll

In the current environment, the acceptable and decent line of action will be to campaign among the voters to use the preferential voting system and cast their preferences to prevent another autocracy being re-established.

by Jude Perera

The citizens of Sri Lanka after becoming extremely dissatisfied with the governance approach of the two major political parties have adopted since independence in 1948, were hopeful of a strong coalition of alternative forces coming forward and presenting them with a policy agenda for a complete system change, not just a change of personalities.


Unfortunately, the alternative forces could not come to a consensus on fielding a single common presidential candidate. The JVP, as the most experienced and the largest of the alternate, should have taken a leadership role in bringing all the groups together. If the alternative political forces fielded a single common presidential candidate, the campaign would have attracted much more popular support leading to a much stronger result at the presidential election. This would have improved the future political opportunities of all the alternative parties.

The JVP has chosen to ignore the preferential voting system available to the people in a presidential election. It is campaigning to vote only for their candidate by putting an ‘X’ against his name. The ultimate result of this initiative will be highly favourable to a Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s victory, as the JVP will be taking away the anti-Gotabhaya vote. The voters of the JVP are comparatively politically savvy and the last thing they would like to see is a Gotabhaya Rajapaksa presidency. To avoid such an outcome, the only thing the JVP has to do is to promote preferential voting directing preferences to avoid re-establishing an autocratic family rule.

It is known that in the lead up to nominations Basil Rajapaksa, on behalf of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa candidacy, met up with the JVP leadership. In order to circumvent any doubt that a deal has been made during this meeting would be to change the current campaign tactic of the JVP on preferential voting. While continuing to request voters to cast their first preference to the presidential candidate of the JVP, it is still not too late for the JVP to request the voters to cast their subsequent preferences to any candidate they believe who has a fair chance of winning and would continue to safeguard the limited gains made in terms of democratic rights and freedoms during the last four years.

In the current environment, the acceptable and decent line of action will be to campaign among the voters to use the preferential voting system and cast their preferences to prevent another autocracy being re-established. It is our view that this will be the only way to prevent voters from going back to the traditional party bases, which would avoid and ignore the alternative forces once more. Therefore, if any voter who chooses to vote 1, or 1 and 2, to alternative candidates and likes to see Gotabhaya Rajapaksa being defeated at the presidential election, they should not hesitate to cast their preferences either 2 or 3 in favour of a candidate who they believe would safeguard the limited democratic rights and freedoms people have gained.

The JVP has occupied the political space of Sri Lanka over half a century. Therefore, it should be quite capable of doing the right thing by the people of Sri Lanka. There is no excuse for the JVP to sit on their hands awaiting parties to approach them for preferences swap deals. Rather, their long-term survival will depend only on placing the future of the citizens of Sri Lanka first.

Anyone who avoids making a conscious effort to casting their preferences either 2 or 3 for preventing the re-establishment of autocratic rule will be indirectly assisting and contributing to a Gotabhaya Rajapaksa victory. What that means is each of us would share the guilt of the Rajapaksa clan for all their misdeeds including kidnapping, murder and disappearance of dissenting voices, large-scale corruption, cronyism and nepotism.

It is with this unpalatable political thought in mind, we urge you to take this election seriously. There is little doubt that the party that wins the presidential election will be in an advantageous position to form the next government in Sri Lanka.

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