The Sunday Leader

PC Polls: An Uphill Task For Many

By Raisa Wickrematunge

Tissa Attanayake, Susil Premajayantha and Vijitha Herath

The upcoming Provincial Council elections are on every politician’s mind. First blood has already been drawn as former UNP stalwart Dayasiri Jayasekara crossed over to the government, reportedly in return for a Chief Ministerial position in one of the provinces.
As each of the political parties readied themselves for electoral battle, The Sunday Leader spoke to some of the parties on their strategy for the upcoming election.

UPFA

Minister of Environment and Secretary of the UPFA, Susil Premajayantha was quietly confident that the state would be able to gain victory in all three provinces with ease.
Premajayantha noted that both the Wayamba and Central Province elections had been advanced by around four to five months, similar to the last Provincial Council elections.

Even so, Premajayanth saw no obstacles preventing the UPFA from winning in both provinces. The Minister added that he believed that the UPFA even had a good chance in the Northern Provincial Council elections, with five candidates from the EPDP, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and All Ceylon Muslim Congress banding together to contest the electorate.

According to statistics, the local government elections in Mannar showed that the UPFA received 18,974 votes compared to the UNP’s 24,613, while the Muslim Congress received 4,444 votes. Since the Muslim Congress has now joined with the UPFA, Premajayanth said he was confident the UPFA could receive 26,000 votes in total. Premajayantha added that he had visited Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Mannar and had spent the last week in Jaffna. This was due to discussions with party activists on the need for visiting the areas where the provincial council elections were being held and getting an assessment before officially appointing candidates.

UNP

UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake meanwhile said that the party was in the process of putting together suitable candidates to run for the North Central, Central and Wayamba elections under the elephant symbol. The party hoped that they would be able to complete this before the end of the month, and were planning to hand over their nominations on August 30 or September 1.

Attanayake said that the party was planning to set up a total of 2,450 election committees, corresponding with the 2,450 polling booths (excluding those in the North Central Province). One of the key objectives would be to direct UNP voters to the polling booths on Election Day.
“We have noticed that low voter turnout is one of the main reasons for the reduction in votes,” Attanayake said. As such these committees would work towards this primary goal. The second objective would be to persuade undecided voters to cast their vote for the UNP.

“If the plan is to change the government, this election should be the one to begin that change,” Attanayake said. The final objective would be to ensure that a portion of the SLFP voters voted for the UNP. A committee headed by UNP MP Mangala Samaraweera has been appointed for this purpose. This committee will submit a report on the best steps to carry out this campaign, Attanayake said. However the party members’ time was currently taken up on the nominations process, he added.

DPF

Democratic People’s Front (DPF) leader Mano Ganesan confirmed that the party would be contesting the upcoming elections, but with two different parties.

The DPF will be contesting with the UNP in the Nuwara Eliya and Kandy areas, and were fielding candidates to contest in both districts together with the UNP, Ganesan said. However when it came to the Northern Provincial Council seats the DPF would be supporting the Tamil National Alliance, he said. This was confirmed with the politburo last Friday, he added.

JVP

Meanwhile, Propaganda Secretary of the JVP Vijitha Herath said that they too would be contesting in all three provinces, and were in the process of preparing nomination papers.
Herath said the party was going to conduct a public awareness campaign about the failure of the Provincial Council system. There were many experiences which had convinced the party about the truth of this statement, Herath added. The Provincial Council system was commenced in 1987 and had been operating for more than 26 years, but still the national question had not been resolved, Herath said. The party planned to educate the public about this.

The second objective was to make the public aware of the fact that rural areas had not been adequately developed. Despite power being devolved to local areas rural development was not as it should be, Herath pointed out. He added that the government was using provincial council elections as a ‘tool’ and said this was a wrong act. Instead the state should be strengthening the rural organisations and assisting the people, he said.

TNA

Tamil National Alliance MP M. A. Sumanthiran said that the party planned to contest cleanly and win in the provincial council elections. The TNA would be contesting in all five districts under the ITAK symbol, as they always did, he said.

However the TNA had not yet begun campaigning as they were still in the process of nominating candidates. The party was planning to file their nominations on Monday, July 29, Sumanthiran said.

Overall, it seems that each party is still in the initial stages of nominating candidates for the upcoming elections. The UPFA remains quietly confident of victory, especially considering its strategic alliances with some of the Muslim parties.

The UNP meanwhile is looking to increase voter turnout and possibly garner more votes, showing it hasn’t thrown in the towel yet, despite the setback of Jayasekara resigning from his seat at the 11th hour.

The JVP, meanwhile, is taking the unusual step of highlighting the failures of the entire provincial council system as a whole. As to which strategy will prove successful – the final ballot count will tell the tale.

 

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