“A half year after Maithripala Sirisena’s stunning defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa raised hopes for democratic renaissance, the complexities of partisan politics, and Rajapaksa himself, have returned to centre stage. Sirisena’s initial months with a minority government led by the United National Party (UNP) have opened important political space: robust debate and criticism have replaced the fear under Rajapaksa, and important governance reforms have been made, but much remains undone. By initial steps on reconciliation, the government set a more accommodating tone on the legacy of the civil war and the ethnic conflict that drove it. But divisions within government and Sirisena’s failure to take control of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) prevented deeper reform and allowed Rajapaksa and his supporters to mount a comeback. With Sirisena opposing Rajapaksa’s return, the 17 August parliamentary elections will test the continued appeal of the ex-president’s hardline Sinhala nationalism and give a chance for the fresh start that lasting solutions to the country’s social divisions require.”
Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday cast her lot against her party’s candidate and presidential successor Mahinda Rajapaksa, indirectly urging Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) supporters to vote against him at the 17 August election.
The phrase ‘regime-change’ is often used to describe the dramatic result of the presidential election on 8th January 2015, both in the sense of a democratic change of government, as well as at a deeper level, to denote the electorate’s expression of a choice between two competing conceptions of the Sri Lankan state. The country rejected the Rajapaksa model and endorsed the common opposition’s promise of a radically different vision of Sri Lanka. With the main part of the common opposition’s promised reforms enacted in the form of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution in April, the electorate will be asked to endorse those changes and the promise of more, or to reject both, in the parliamentary elections in two weeks’ time.
Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa has vowed to win an outright majority in parliamentary elections due on 17 August.
Mr Rajapaksa told BBC Sinhala he was confident of winning more than half the seats in parliament.
He is hoping to become prime minister, but the result is far from clear-cut.
A Rajapaksa win would mean an uneasy cohabitation with party rival Maithripala Sirisena, who beat him in presidential elections in January.
Their Sri Lanka Freedom Party remains divided over the two men – the president failed to stop his predecessor from standing as a party candidate in the polls.
“The new Sri Lankan president, Maithripala Sirisena, has a chance to make some changes, but only if he can keep an uncertain coalition together. Resetting relations with Delhi and Washington will be an important part of this – and his country’s friends need to give him some space.”
“A quarter century ago, as an eager first time voter, I cast my maiden vote for a young journalist friend who had recently taken to electoral politics.”
What has been a remarkable change recently in political affiliation after the emergence of Maithripala Sirisena as common candidate, has been the shift of the SLFP elements from Mahinda Rajapakse and the UPFA to Maithripala and the SLFP. Since the date the Election was announced until the 25th of December the only canvassing in the village has been for Maithripala.