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The UNP and the Opposition Political Landscape

The UNP and the Opposition Political Landscape

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Published by: Thavam on Oct 01, 2013
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10/01/2013

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- on 09/30/2013Image courtesy theSunday Leader The recent elections to three provincialcouncils, namely the Northern, North Western and Central and theconsequent results together with the general political expectations thatseveral more provincial elections would be held next year followed bynational, presidential and general elections, make the opposition or nonUPFA political landscape a rather important factor in determining the extentof a genuine alternative or real challenge to the current Rajapakse Regime.
A politically resilient and dominant Rajapakse regime
  The provincial council results indicate that baring a serious shake up in theopposition political landscape, President Mahinda Rajapakse can fairlycomfortably predict a series of wins in the rest of the provincial councils,with the possible exception of the East and romp home to victory in apresidential contest held somewhere in 2014 / 2015. The current politicalposition between the ruling SLFP led UPFA and the UNP in terms of popularsupport is essentially the UPFA at about sixty (60%) of the popular vote andthe UNP at barely thirty (30%) of the popular vote. If political currents
 
continue in the same way, securing a third term sometime in the not toodistant future, President Mahinda Rajapakse would become Sri Lanka’slongest serving executive president.At the heart of the Rajapakse regime’s political resilience, in spite of theregime’s generally unpopular governance from imprisoning the opposition’spresidential candidate, impeaching the chief justice, grabbing furtherexecutive power through the 18th amendment, trying to convert the EPFinto a pension scheme, raising electricity rates by forty (40%) percent,shooting dead protestors in Weliveriya, creating a dangerous environmentfor independent media, assaults on minority religious communities,militarizing significant civilian society space, being at loggerheads with theacademic community and failing to bring about national reconciliationthrough adequately implementing the LLRC proposals the Rajapakse regimecontinues at sixty percent (60%) of popular support, a truly amazingpolitical feat.One reason for this of course is the ethnic Sinhala nationalism, which is thepolitical ideology of the Rajapakse regime and accordingly there isconsiderable bi partisan or multi partisan support for the regime based onidentity politics. However, the resilience of the UPFA is not solely based onmajoritarian ethno religious nationalism, because the most ardentsupporters and ideological proponents of such Sinhala Buddhistnationalism, the MEP, the JHU and the NFF actually have in the past and didcurrently as well, fare poorly at the polls, demonstrating that mercifully,extreme ethno religious nationalism, of an exclusionary and anti minoritynature, though influencing government policy and controlling a significantswathe of the State apparatus, is at the political fringes and does notattract significant public support. None of the JHU, NFF or MEP nomineesgot elected at the recent provincial polls.
The UNP’s leadership issue
A major contributory factor for the Rajapakse regime’s resilience is in factthe absolute lack luster performance of the main opposition United NationalParty. The UNP does not act like an opposition political force; it tendsgenerally to act much more like a party that is supporting the governmentbut from outside rather than the inside. Like the JVP supported the PA forseveral years, prior to their formally joining the PA and creating the UPFA.Mr.Ranil Wickramasinghe behaves politically, more like a minister withoutportfolio, rather than as the leader of the opposition. Convinced that thegovernment would collapse over the weight of its own internalcontradictions in due course, which of course has not shown the slightestsign of occurring and mostly insecure in his own position as the “only

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