The United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday secured an absolute majority in the Southern Provincial Council (SPC), for which election was held held on Saturday, bagging 38 (including bonus seats) in the 65 member House.
As per the final results given by the Election Commission the ruling UPFA polled 804,071 votes (67.88 per cent), taking 38 seats, the main opposition (United National Party-UNP) obtained 297,180 votes (25.09 per cent) with 14 seats and the People's Liberation Front (JVP) polled 72,379 votes securing three seats.
The outcome of SPC election was followed by observers keenly for three reasons. It is the last of the eight of the nine provinces in the island nation to go polls since the Eelam War IV, August 2006 to May 2009. President Mahinda Rajapaksa hails from SP. An election to the office of the President followed by general election before April is on the cards after the SP election.
The changed fortunes of the ruling and the opposition parties in the post-Prabakaran Sri Lanka could be gauged from the position that in 2004 the UPFA polled 5,61644 votes and the UNP got 2,91,943 votes. JVP contested the last poll as an electoral ally of UPFA.
Reacting to the outcome the UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake said as the government could only garner 67 percent of the votes as opposed to the expected 90 percent despite `blatant violation of electoral laws and massive use of state resources’. “This is the beginning of the end of the Rajapaksa regime”, he remarked.
With the conclusion of SP election, the focus would now shift to national politics. In a clear hint that a Presidential poll followed by a general election is in the offing in the post-Prabakaran Sri Lanka, the Cabinet Presided over by President Rajapaksa on October 6 decided to present a Vote on Account to Parliament instead of a full fledged budget for 2010.
The term of the Parliament is scheduled to end in April next year and in an interview to The Hindu (published on July 6, 7 and 8) Mr. Rajapaksa had declared that he would seek re-election as President before the Parliamentary polls.
Under the Sri Lanka Constitution, President is entitled to call for Presidential election once he/she completes four of the six year tenure. Mr. Rajapaksa completes his 4 years in the third week of November. In the event of a Presidential election upon completion of 4 years in office, the person elected to office of President would take oath of office and secrecy only on completion of 6 year term of the sitting President.
In his The Hindu interview ,in response to a question on the much-needed and awaited political solution to the ethnic problem, Mr. Rajapaksa had said: “I know what to give and I know what not to give. The people have given me the mandate, so I'm going to use it..No way for federalism in this country. For reconciliation to happen there must be a mix [of ethnicities].”
“Even tomorrow I can give that [political solution] - but I want to get that from the people. I am waiting, but it will be after my [re]election [as President].” Observers are of the view that Mr. Rajapaksa wants an early second term as his popularity ratings in the south are high after the military defeat of the LTTE in May and demise of its leader, Velupillai Prabakaran.
Managers in the President's camp believe that if Mr. Rajapaksa is re-elected for second term he would not only have firmer grip on ruling party candidates for the Parliamentary election but also be better placed to campaign seeking a clear majority for the alliance led by him in the new House. The opinion among the backroom managers on whether or not the President should go for a second term before the general election is yet to be firmed up. But nonetheless there is no escape from big election for the island nation.
At his last rally on Tuesday for the Southern Provincial Council (SPC) Mr. Rajapaksa asserted that the people of south would react accordingly to international allegations levelled against the `leaders who pioneered the humanitarian mission against the ruthless terrorists',
The supreme confidence of President vis-à-vis the rest of the world is not difficult to understand as barring the Northern Province all other seven provinces have witnessed fresh elections after the commencement of Eelam War IV in August 2006 (it concluded in May 2009) and resoundingly voted in favour of the alliance led by Mr. Rajapaksa.
There was never any doubt on the outcome of the SPC election and the debate centred only on the margin by which the ruling combine would take over the Council. English daily, Island in an editorial on the day of SPC voting wrote, “Suffice it to say that the JVP may consider it an achievement, if it could secure at least one seat in the 53-member And the UNP will have a good reason to be happy if it could fare a wee bit better than it did in Uva.
“And the government will have won only if it could surpass itself in its stronghold, the South. That is, it will have to better its last performance in Uva, where it polled a little over 72 per cent of the valid votes. Even if it wins without achieving that target, it will leave room for the Opposition to claim the end of the Rajapaksa regime has begun!”
Meanwhile, the visiting ruling combine parliamentary delegation from Tamil Nadu reached Jaffna in the morning for a first hand assessment of the situation in the peninsula. From there, they would head to the war displaced camps in Vavuniya district to see the conditions in the camps.
Though this is the largest ever Indian parliamentary contingent to visit the island nation since the emergence of Tamil militant and terrorist outfits on the scene three decades ago, they have been studiously kept away from the Indian media contingent based here.
On the last but one day of their stay here, the delegation will also go to Kandy in the hill district for an interaction with the Indian origin Tamils in the plantation sector. They would visit the technical vocational training centre set up with Indian help.