Could a reasonable prediction be made about the upcoming poll when the armchair experts say that a hung Parliament is the inevitable outcome?
Cut to a different election, in quite a different place. It’s the British Parliamentary poll, May 2015.
Trained pollsters such as Gallup and other big names in the opinion sampling industry opined, until the last day before the British people cast their ballots that the race would be very close, and all signs indicated a hung Parliament. The Prime Ministerial frontrunner candidates themselves believed that no party would obtain a working majority in the House of Commons.
Things didn’t quite turn out this way, did they? David Cameron won a comfortable victory, and the Parliament was anything but hung.
A lesson is in order from this, for all armchair critics who ignore the trends, and are oblivious to the zeitgeist. There is no evidence that there is an erosion of the rural vote for Maninda Rajapaksa and this means the electoral map is not going to change much when the results are out on the 18th.
It appears, however, that it is virtually impossible for Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP to retain the votes that Maithripala Sirisena managed to siphon off the UPFA on January 8. Wickremesinghe is Wickremesinghe, and the UNP is the UNP. Enough said.
On top of that, the zeitgeist is seen from the phenomenal crowds that the Mahinda-led UPFA has drawn from Nugegoda onwards.
The hung Parliament scenario does not seem to be credible — ask David Cameron — when the people overwhelmingly are averse to certain perceived negative trends.
Is it conceivable that people would prefer the serially vanquished Ranil Wickremesinghe to Mahinda Rajapaksa who lost once?
It’s also more than relevant, in determining the zeitgeist that Mahinda Rajapaksa was left for dead on January 8.
The weight of accusations against him was massive. Remember that the predictions were such that international news services speculated that Rajapaksa was ‘missing with the loot’, the implication being that he had fled the country in the manner of tin-pot dictators who ‘fled from the mob.’
Despite these demonizing narratives and all of the best efforts of the Government to keep Rajapaksa out of the political fray, today nobody doubts that the Opposition is rallied around him, and he would be the Prime Minister in the likely event of a UPFA victory.
Predictions of hung Parliament in this context seem to be, British Gallup style, deeply flawed.
A visit to some Southern electorates by this writer confirmed these facts. Overwhelmingly, in the rural South in Galle and Matara Districts, popular opinion favors Maninda Rajapaksa.
Among those who do not openly display his photograph on shop fronts etc., there are those who say that there are block voters who will not change their allegiances.
There might be a floating vote however, they suggest.
So, we scour the two districts for that floating sample. It seems to be hard to find, when the vast majority simply deadpan that they would cast their vote for the ‘bulath kole.’
But some say, these are the rural boondocks. So we stray. No doubt Galle city is for the UNP. When was it not?
Three big cities have been voting UNP since time began — Galle, Kandy, and Colombo. So that’s boring. No ‘venasak’ or change there.
But how is the suburbia faring?
So far as we know, the mood seems to be in flux in such parts too.
The ‘pathalaya’ or ‘underground’ has resurfaced, and Ranil Wickremesinghe seems to have been the first to admit it when he said on Derana that he has instructed police to apprehend ‘whoever’ caused the Bloemandal mayhem.
In the suburbia, the people seem to be saying that the country is used to ‘blue’ governments, and that experiments do not work. They had six months by which they could judge.
UNPers for their part have their narrative, and for sake of balance, that version needs to be mentioned.
It appears that the UNP is bent on offsetting the rural vote with a phenomenal number of seats in Colombo.
The UNP claims to have been reinvigorated. There is some truth to this, mostly at the organizational level. The party faithful believe that six months have been enough to cause an irreversible sea change.
The party faithful also believe that if they haven’t killed Mahinda and buried him six feet under, he is at least two inches under by now.
That story sounds tough to sell, when Mahinda bounced back, and most of those who were rigorously opposed to him in the party were forced to beat back a hasty retreat, and join UNP ranks.
But certainly, in the suburbia, apart from those who say that they think the country is now ‘too used to blue’, there are those who think that Mahinda Rajapaksa is better off bidding a respectable goodbye to politics.
Says one feisty taxi-driver in Colombo that this is what should have happened, but Wimal Weerawansa did that gentleman (MR) a great disservice by dragging him back kicking and screaming into politics.
But the UNP’s claim that Colombo — the district, not the city — is a sure thing for the party certainly seems to be tenuous, if one listens to a random suburban cross section.
As rural Sri Lanka goes, so goes the nation!
We will see on Tuesday, but what is clear is that there is no tectonic shift.
The UNF which has morphed into the UNFGG has had its chance. The people have watched the short lived government make a raucous din, and then go down.
That does not do much for “perception”.
There is nothing new to opt for in this UNP, which is led by a leader who is solid in his habit of losing.
Unless he is able to pull something off, it seems all this talk of a hung Parliament would turn out for Ranil, how it turned out for Ed Miliband, and you know how exactly that was…