Heading towards a breakdown

A victory by the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)-led coalition of President Mahinda Rajapakse in the local government elections held at the end of March was expected. Political parties that have won national elections immediately preceding local polls invariably do well at the local level. But a landslide victory of the sort that the SLFP achieved was not foreseen, if only because its ally in the presidential elections, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), was contesting in opposition, and made no secret that they anticipated winning at least 50 seats.

In fact, the JVP won only one seat, while the ruling party secured over 200. Even the main opposition party, the United National Party (UNP), came in a poor second, garnering little more than 30 positions. The JVP's surprise poor performance is revealing of the moderate nature of the electorate. The public gave its votes to the ruling party, which has been making an effort to put the Norwegian-facilitated peace process back on track, with President Rajapakse taking the lead. The voters indicated their clear rejection of the JVP's fiery brand of xenophobic, revolutionary politics based on unidimensional economic and ethnic nationalism. In the pre-poll campaigning, the JVP leaders had vehemently opposed foreign involvement in Sri Lankan affairs, attacking the multilateral aid agencies and calling on the government to halt all Norwegian involvement within a month.

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Himal Southasian