Mahinda Rajapaksa’s plans to return to power as Sri Lanka’s president for a third successive term has run into trouble. With less than a month to go before the vote, Rajapaksa is ahead of his rivals but joint opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena is closing in and could unseat him in a free and fair election.
Ahilan Kadirgamar: “Sri Lanka is facing a crucial election, possibly its most important since 1956 when the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) came to power. For the first time since S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike split from the United National Party (UNP), the two-party system may be reconfigured as members of the two elite parties come together in an attempt to overthrow the Rajapaksa regime, which has gone too far down the path of authoritarianism.”
How then must the opposition campaign? How does a Sinhala dominated opposition allay the fears of the Sinhala community that the opposition campaign—a cause for which there will be critical but overwhelming Tamil support—will harm the Sinhalese? Equally, how must a responsible Tamil opposition express its positions to the Tamil people credibly, without undermining Mr. Sirisena’s ability to attract Sinhala votes?