The new Rajapaksean regime

The major lesson of the first post-war national election in Sri Lanka is that politics in the country is transforming. The debates, the challenges and the election itself were not so much about the two candidates, but rather were a response to incumbent Mahinda Rajapakse. It was a challenge that he did not expect after the war; but calling presidential elections two years ahead of schedule has indeed worked out, winning him another term. And the lesson from the defeat of his challenger, Sarath Fonseka, is that a platform purely of opposition and calls for change, without a serious political vision, do not necessarily translate into votes.

During the last three decades, war politics has undermined other forms of politics in Sri Lanka, whether it be class, gender, the rural-urban divide or, for that matter, democratisation. This national election, held 26 January, triggered unexpected mobilisation and a clear deepening of the debates in society – ultimately pointing to a break with war politics. It is now clear that the end of the war has put ,and will continue to put, political leaders through greater scrutiny by the people. If, during the decades of war, the economic and political grievances of the exploited classes and minorities were deflected and put on hold, there are now higher expectations, coupled with mobilisation, to challenge the politicians and their political parties.

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Himal Southasian