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The presidential election held this year was a key turning point in the recent political history of Sri Lanka. With the ascent of Maithripala Sirisena as President, the country sighed with relief. Members of the losing party could hardly believe their eyes. Now, seven months after that event, a General Election is upon us. If we are to make an informed decision we should be clear about the situation.

If the presidential election had been a general election Normally, when an election is held hot on the heels of another, the public in generally tends to vote for the party which won before. Given this, the votes for the UPFA would reduce. Analyzing the history of presidential and general elections in the post-1977 era, this would amount to a reduction of about 20 seats, down to a total of 88 seats.

However, the present election cannot be analyzed in accordance with this historic formula. Why?

Firstly, the individual who won the presidential election was not from the UNP. He was the Secretary of the SLFP.Secondly, after Sirisena’s victory, the UNP did not seek to establish him as its leader. Instead, on January 16, he was appointed as leader of the SLFP and UPFA. Hence, the UNP can lay claim to only a portion of his victory.

Thirdly, there has been a seven month hiatus between the two elections. Therefore, the general election is not exactly hot on the heels of the presidential election and things have cooled down a bit, allowing people to be a bit more reflective when deciding.

Fourthly and finally, the UNP’s leader Ranil Wickremesinghe became Prime Minister. During the past seven months, he didn’t implement Sirisena’s 100 Day Program. Therefore, it is not possible to acknowledge that Sirisena’s victory was due to the UNP.

It would be opportune to identify how voting trends might have changed since January. Outcomes of opinion surveys differ. Nevertheless, in general, there seems to be two common conclusions highlighted by all surveys. Firstly, none of the contesting parties will be able to obtain a simple majority in parliament. That is, no one will obtain 113 seats. The most probably scenario is that the UPFA will obtain 100-105 seats, the UNP 90-95 seats, the JVP 10-15 seats and the Tamil parties 15 seats. The second most important conclusion is that 20% – 25% (2.5 to three million citizens) of those who voted at the last election are still undecided.

Ranil Wickremesinghe made it eminently clear during the last seven months that he was not interested in building a compassionate government or a stable country. All that the UNP wants to do is to make use of Sirisena to further its own ends. Their primary goal is to market Maithripala Sirisena in order to win elections, then completely ignore and marginalize him to do what they wish. Therefore, the undecided voter should try to prevent Ranil Wickremesinghe becoming the Prime Minister.

Similarly, who would have thought that Mahinda Rajapaksa would be contesting the general election? Can we hope that he will now willingly work in the shadow of Maithripala Sirisena as his chief disciple? That is farfetched.

The way (is) to defeat both Mahinda and Ranil
Given the present situation, would it be possible to have someone other than either Mahinda or Ranil as Prime Minister? Yes! If the UPFA does not obtain 113 seats, Mahinda is out. He can’t become the Prime Minister. Similarly, if the UNP cannot be number one, Ranil can’t become Prime Minister either. What should hence happen at the general election is that the UPFA defeats the UNP but not obtain 113 seats. Then, what would happen is the establishment of a national government with the UPFA and the UNP with the Prime Minister would be someone other than Rajapaksa from the UPFA.

Let us not vote!
If all of the undecided voters decide to vote for the UPFA then it would certainly obtain 113 seats, something which isn’t desirable. If on the other hand, they all vote and ensure a victory for the UNP then another undesired outcome would materialize.

What should we then do? Simple. Don’t vote. How? Two ways.One: refrain from going to the polling booth. Then it’s possible that the percentage of voters is reduced to 60. Two: spoil your vote. Then the percentage of rejected votes could rise to 10-15%.Either way, the citizens win.

If the President refuses to take sides, then the insightful voter should refuse to take a side as well. That would be the only way our votes will be valued. Then, since a national government would be created sans Mahinda or Ranil, all that would be left for them to do is to hold hands and go into retirement. Both parties would then finally have the chance to breathe fresh life into their parties.

Alternatively, you could vote for the JVP. The country requires a JVP that will place conditions for the good of the country and join any new government that is formed. However, a problem arises since the JVP leaders have already stated that they would join the opposition.

Let us ensure that Maithri wins on  August 17

If you have already decided to vote for the UNP, then you should vote for an individual who is not entrenched in the Ranil camp.  If you have already decided to vote for the UPFA then it is imperative that you give your preferential vote to a supporter of President Sirisena.

It would only be then that you could help take the country towards a strong, compassionate (Maithri-piri) governance system. We should never forget our goal.