The Sunday Leader

Poll Post Mortem

By Camelia Nathaniel

Although the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) claimed victory at the Western and Southern Provincial Council Elections, they surely cannot be totally happy with the result. In comparison to the 2009 provincial council poll, the ruling party has experienced a reduction in the number of seats won.

While the UPFA secured 67.88 percent of votes cast at the Southern Provincial Council election in 2009, at this election, the UPFA secured only 58.96 percent of the vote.

The UPFA, which secured 64.73 percent of the votes cast at the Western Provincial Council election in 2009, secured 53.35 per cent of the vote this time around.

According to the final election results in the Western Province, of the 102 available seats, the UPFA secured 56 seats while the Democratic Party (DP) won nine seats.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) won six seats while the Democratic People’s Front and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress won two seats each. The All Ceylon Makkal Congress won one seat.

When compared with the last polls in the two provinces, it is noteworthy that the JVP has been successful in securing three additional seats at this election, while the DP, which contested for the first time in the province, managed to secure nine seats. It was a rather surprising turn of events which one could, perhaps, say was rather unexpected that the DP had emerged as the third force with 7.97 percent of the vote in the Western Province.

The DP won four seats from the Gampaha District, three seats from the Colombo District and two from the Kalutara District.
In the case of the JVP, the party had managed to double the number of seats in comparison to the last election.

However, in the case of the United National Party (UNP), although they had not lost as many seats as the ruling party, and had managed to hold onto their strongholds, they, too, had lost two seats in comparison to the previous election.

In the final vote count in the Southern Provincial Council, the UPFA won 33 seats, the UNP 14 seats, the JVP 5 seats and the DP three seats.

Past to present

When compared with the previous elections in 2009, the UPFA has lost five seats at this election.

The UPFA, however, had managed to hold on to their seats in the Hambantota District, including the two additional seats subtracted from the Galle and Matara District and being conferred to the Hambantota District, having made some changes to the constitution.
Meanwhile, the UNP and the JVP succeeded in claiming one more seat each in the Hambantota District in comparison to the previous elections.

However, it was rather disappointing for the ruling party in the Galle and Matara districts, in comparison to last year, where the party lost three seats in Galle and two seats in Matara.

As a whole, the ruling UPFA lost 17 seats in Western and Southern Provincial Councils when compared to the election result in 2009. The UNP lost two seats compared to the last election while the JVP obtained five more seats.

The Democratic Party, which did not contest in 2009, obtained 12 seats at the Western and Southern Provincial Council election.
Therefore, the 17 seats which were previously with the Government have been shared between the JVP and the Democratic Party.
During a media briefing held in Colombo subsequent to the conclusion of the counting of votes, the SLFP General Secretary Minister Maithripala Sirisena said, “The United National Party has not seen a large increase in the number of votes or a major victory. But the minor parties, that is the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and Sarath Fonseka’s party, have won more seats than they had.”

However, he also added that, while these provincial council elections would not change governments, it is rather common for smaller parties to make minor gains, which should not be taken very seriously. He rejected the analysis made by the opposition that the ruling party vote base had, in fact, receded.

JVP and Premadasa gain support

Meanwhile, SLFP Treasurer Minister Dullas Alahapperuma acknowledged that the JVP, which had 11 percent of the vote, has increased their percentage of the vote to 12 percent in the Hambantota district. He said that it was a clear indication that, under Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s leadership, there has been a revival of the JVP supporter base than under Somawansa Amarasinghe’s leadership.
However, it seems that the UNP’s move to appoint a leadership council has not made any difference to the party as a whole and the people’s confidence in the party.

But, at this election, Sajith Premadasa has clearly proven the faith and support he has from the people, by increasing the votes in his bastion by over 12,000. This development has clearly indicated that he still has the support of the people.

Meanwhile, the actors and actresses had lost their luster at the elections and failed to secure their seats, despite their popularity. While Anarkali Akarshaa and Nadeesha Hemamali failed to obtain enough preferential votes in order to secure a seat in the Matara district, Geetha Kumarasinghe managed to scrape through in order to secure a position on the Galle District PC on the UPFA ticket, having received 26,932 preferential votes.

Madumadawa Aravinda failed to secure a seat from the Gampaha District on the UPFA ticket, but Raveendra Yasas and Nalin Pradeep Uduwela, who contested on the DP ticket from Kalutara and Gampaha respectively, managed to secure their seats. Nalin Pradeep Uduwela, also from the same party, managed to secure a seat in the Colombo District. Roger Seneviratne, who contested the Western Provincial Council from the Colombo District on the UPFA ticket, secured a seat in the council along with UNP candidate Rodney Frazer. Several sons, daughters and relatives of prominent politicos also contested the provincial polls and managed to secure their seats.

Hirunika Premchandra faired rather well at the elections, winning the highest number of preferential votes in the Colombo District. She claims that this victory was more a victory for truth and justice than a personal victory for her. However, the people will have to wait and see how she performs in the future in order to know if she really meant what she said or if these were simply empty words.

One of the less spoken issues that had taken place during the polling, however, was that, in certain areas, voters names had been mysteriously taken off the voting lists. In fact, UNP parliamentarian Dr Harsha de Silva, too, stated that he had also been notified of this issue by several voters, but could not, however, make a confirmed statement if this was deliberately done or if it was some sort of oversight. But the fact remains that many voters who were long standing residents of certain areas had somehow been deprived of their right to vote.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader several politicians from their respective parties also voiced their opinion on the election as a whole.

Hasan Ali, SLMC General Secretary

The SLMC has retained its seats and votes have been increased by about 3000. However, our main concern is that the voter turnout is decreasing each year. The people seem to have lost faith in the credibility of the system. All political parties should get together and find a mechanism to address the grievances of the people. There has to be constitutional and electoral changes to find remedies to the failures in the system and to talk about the silent majority. A meaningful democracy can be exercised through casting votes but the majority has been silent. The Government and the opposition cannot ignore that factor. There is a necessity to strengthen the powers of the Election Commissioner to be able to take strong decisions like in India to tackle the issues.

Sunil Hadunnetti, JVP Parliamentarian

This election marks a special victory, not as a party but in general. It is irrelevant whether we have fared well as a party or not and where we are placed in numbers does not count. The JVP, as a political party, has been performing the duty of an opposition in Parliament even with a representation of three MPs. This time, people have clearly shown their disappointment with the Government. Compared to last time, the number of votes received by the Government has reduced by about two lakhs. That is a sign of defeat at the next presidential election. The opposition parties have managed to secure more seats, showing the drawbacks of the Government. If the Government does not take immediate steps to change the message given to the people, they will be rejected very soon.

Mano Ganesan, Democratic People’s Front Leader

People in Southern and Western provinces have given three messages – the Government is failing their mission, the opposition parties should come together to form an effective alliance and the UNP should sort their internal matters to strengthen the opposition – if not people will find alternatives. There is a clear drop in the voter turnout. 55% is a very poor turnout. This shows the people’s lack of faith in the system. As a party, we have received a good signal. With no alliance, our party has secured a good margin. We may not have achieved our goal, but this is a beginning of a new political adventure. This election has also taught a good lesson to the SLMC for splitting Tamil parties.

Sajith Premadasa, UNP Parliamentarian

I am humbled by the people’s response and I am eternally grateful to the people of Hambantota for having supported our vision and our political path. We will try to ensure that the people of Hambantota District are served to the best of their interest.
I’m a very pragmatic, progressive politician and, just because we gained some votes, I don’t consider that a resounding victory. To have a resounding victory, you have to win an electorate and a district. We are yet to achieve that. I am not going to brag about this victory in an exaggerated manner. Yes, we gained more votes in comparison to the previous provincial elections and we gained an extra seat, but we have much higher targets. Therefore, until we reach those higher targets we are not going to rejoice.

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