General Election 2020: Stars Bite the Dust as Underdogs Shine
BY Gagani Weerakoon
General Election 2020 concluded once again giving a two-third majority to a governing party led by Rajapaksas. While, there is no clear-cut idea as to what has been the deciding factor in voters’ mind when they exercised their franchise at South Asia’s first General Election to be held after global pandemic COVID-19, it certainly proves that Sri Lanka’s political framework has changed. The long-prevailed biases towards a particular political party which mostly became the deciding factor when voting, appears no longer valid.
Not only that, the glorified belief that those who breakaway from main political parties will eventually have to return to their mother party for survival was not only proved to be a mere myth but a complete farce with this election results.
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) that won as a governing party in just four years of being formed by breaking away from SLFP not only secured a two-third majority but also made the leader of the main SLFP to seek salvage by becoming one of its candidates.
Similarly, Samagi Jana Balawegaya which was formed months before placing nominations for the General Election by defecting from the main party UNP, not only became the main Opposition but completely wiped out their mother party from Parliament at the first time.
Mahinda Rajapaksa secured the highest ever number of preferential votes in Sri Lanka’s election history, by polling 527,364 votes or 81.1 per cent of total preferential votes from Kurunegala District at General Election 2020.
Previously, this record was held by United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. He had recorded 500,506 preferential votes from Colombo District at General Election 2015.
SLPP’s Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara who contested from Colombo District recorded 328, 092 votes or 48.6 per cent of total preferential votes in the Electoral District.
Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Leader Sajith Premadasa won the Colombo Central Electorate with 305,744 preferential votes (79%) while Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB) Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake recorded 49,814 preferential votes.
Dr. Nalaka Godahewa who contested from Gampaha Electoral District on the SLPP ticket took first place in the preferential votes list of the District with 325,479 (40.2%). Prasanna Ranatunge came in second with 316,544 votes.
SJB Gampaha District Candidate field Marshal Sarath Fonseka recorded 110,555 preferential votes while JJB Candidate Vijitha Herath recorded 37,008 preferential votes.
Meanwhile, SLPP’s Polonnaruwa District Candidate Maithripala Sirisena notched the highest preferential votes in the District with 113,137 (61%). SJB Candidate Kingsley Nelson obtained 22,392 preferential votes there.
Nipuna Ranawaka, the SLPP candidate of Matara District recorded 131,010 preferential votes while SJB’s Buddhika Pathirana recorded 44,839 preferential votes there.
SLPP’s Namal Rajapaksa notched 166, 660 preferential votes from the Hambantota District (59.3%) and SJB’s Dilip Wedaarachchi obtained 25,376 preferential votes.
People have voted 64 new faces out of 196 members elected to represent the 9th Parliament.
The highest number of fresh faces, which stands at 53, is elected from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. Another four are elected from the Samagi Jana Balawegaya.
Apart from this a fresh face will take oaths as an MP on 20 August 2020 in the ninth Parliament representing Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchchi (ITAK), Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP), All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and Muslim National Alliance (MNA).
Out of the maiden MPs, the highest number of preferential votes has been polled by Dr. Nalaka Godahewa who topped the SLPP Gampaha list beating stalwart former Minister Prasanna Ranatunga. Interestingly, the highest number of fresh faces (6) was elected from Gampaha District. Five maiden MPs were elected from the Anuradhapura District while, Kurunegala, Colombo and Nuwara Eliya have elected four fresh faces each.
Apart from Dr. Godahewa, another nine have polled over 100,000 votes. These include Lecturer Gunapala Ratnasekara (Kurunegala- 141,991) Prof. Channa Jayasumana (Anuradhapura – 133,980 ) Uddika Premaratna (Anuradhapura – 133,550), Nipuna R. Ranawake (Matara- 131,010), Sampath Atukorale (Galle- 128,331), Karunadasa Kodithuwakku (Matara – 114,319), Jeevan Thondaman (Nuwara Eliya -109,155), Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy- 108,940) and Sanjeewa Edirimanne (Kalutara 105,973).
The 26-year-old Jeevan Thondaman is the youngest fresh face to enter the 9th Parliament.
Out of these 64 MPs three are women who enter Parliament for the first time. They are Rajika Wickramasinghe (Kegalle-68802), Muditha Priyanganee Soyza (Ratnapura – 65,923) and Kokila Harshani Gunawardena (Gampaha – 77,922).
The 9th Parliament will see four sets of the father-son duo taking oaths as members.
Out of this four three sets were elected from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP): Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his son Namal Rajapaksa, and Chamal Rajapaksa and his son Shasheendra Rajapaksa. Former Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon and his son Pramitha were the other set to be elected to Parliament.
Meanwhile, with SLPP naming Engineer Yadamini Gunawardena as a National List MP on Friday, the fourth set of father-son duo is completed with his father Dinesh Gunawardena already being elected from Colombo District.
Women in Parliament
In addition, there are eight female candidates elected to the 9th Parliament of Sri Lanka via preferential votes secured in the General Elections 2020.
Three female representatives have been elected from the Ratnapura District alone.
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Muditha Soyza, and Samagi Jana Balawegaya’s Thalatha Atukorale were elected from the Ratnapura District.
SLPP’s Rajika Wickremesinghe was elected from the Kegalle District in the Sabaragamuwa Province.
Sudharshani Fernandopulle and Kokila Gunawardena representing the SLPP have been elected from the Gampaha District.
SLPP’s Geetha Kumarasinghe was elected from the Galle District. Samagi Jana Balawegaya’s Rohini Kaviratne has been elected from the Matale District.
However, the number of female representatives in Parliament may increase depending on the candidates nominated via the National Lists submitted by political parties. The SLPP has already nominated two woman representatives from their National List bringing the number up to 10.
Female representation in Parliament has not surpassed 6.5% in the history of Sri Lanka.
During the 2015-2020 Parliament, female representation was 5.3% with 12 females elected among 225 members.
Unfortunately, there is no Muslim or Tamil woman being elected to Parliament and the representation will remain the same unless SJB includes a woman representation from ethnic minority group in their national list.
Apart from 64 new faces, 66 former MPs lose out on Parliament seat. They are Ranil Wickremesinghe, Thilanga Sumathipala, Ravi Karunanayake, Daya Gamage, A.H.M. Fowzie, Sujeewa Senasinghe, Hirunika Premachandra, Dulith Wijesekera, Ruwan Wijewardene, Arjuna Ranatunga, Ajith Manapperuma, Vijith Wijayamuni Zoysa, Chathura Senaratne, Edward Gunasekera, Palitha Thewarapperuma, Lakshman WIjemanne, Ajith P. Perera, Nalinda Jayatisse, Vajira Abeywardene, Wijepala Hettiarachchi, Badulalal Bandarigoda, Piyasena Gamage, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene, Manoj Sirisena, Niroshan Premaratne, Sunil Handunnetti, Nihal Gallapatti, S.B. Navinna, Tharanath Basnayake, T. B. Ekanayake, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Indika Bandaranayake, Palitha Range Bandara, Shantha Abeysekera, Weerakumara Dissanayake, S.A. Muthukumaran, Chandrani Bandara, P. Harrison, Chandima Gamage, Nalaka Kolonne, Sydney Jayaratne, Lakshman Seneviratne, Ravi Samaraweera, Padma Udaya Shantha Gunasekera, Sumedha G. Jayasena, Ananda Kumarasiri, Navin Dissanayake, K.K. Piyadasa, Mayilvaganam Thilakaraj, Lakshman Wasantha Perera, Wasantha Aluwihare, Ranjith Aluwihare, Sandheep Samarasinghe, Thusitha Wijemanne, Dunesh Gankanda, Karunaratne Paranavithane, A.A. Wijetunge, S. Yogeswaran, Gnanamuthu Sivanesan, Ali Zahir Moulana, Ameer Ali, Susantha Punchi Nilame, Abdula Maharoof, Vijayakala Maheswaran, Mavai Senathiraja, E. Saravanabawan and Anoma Gamage.
Meanwhile, Jaffna District Illankai Tamil Arasu Katchchi (ITAK) Parliamentarian Elect, M.A. Sumanthiran claimed that the disunity which prevailed within the ITAK was the main reason for the big drawback of the Party at the 5 August Parliamentary Polls.
President’s Counsel Sumanthiran, who is one of the three Members elected from the ITAK to the Parliament from the Jaffna District, said that there were several issues which remained within the ITAK and the disunity in this Party, which is the flagship of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), also led to the downfall of the ITAK, which had 16 seats in the previous Parliament and was the main Opposition.
Sumanthiran said: “The President of the ITAK, Mavai S. Senathiraja from Jaffna and the Party’s General Secretary K. Thurairetnasingam from Batticaloa, have also lost badly at the Election. So their defeats too show how far the ITAK, which is the premier constituent Party in the TNA is in a state of disorientation“.
Sumanthiran pointed out that the ITAK has learnt a bitter lesson at the Election this time.
The ITAK with the symbol of the house has won 10 seats while securing only three seats from the Jaffna District. The ITAK-led TNA, in its prime, had 20 seats.
Meanwhile, Jathika Jana Balawegaya, Colombo District Parliamentary Elect Anura Kumara Dissanayaka claimed, the mandate given by the voters to them at the concluded General Election is no hindrance to take forward their Election manifesto and to implement it on behalf of the people. He acknowledged they had suffered a setback at the Poll.
“It could be seen that we have suffered a certain drawback at this Polls. Though, the total votes garnered by us, in comparison to last year’s Presidential Poll had increased somewhat, we cannot be pleased with the overall outcome, especially at a General Election. However, as this is the end result, the voters have given us, whether we are pleased with it or not, we have to accept it. Our aim is to protect democracy, to implement democratic reforms and to maintain the rule of law and order. The previous caretaker regime that was in power for over eight months acted like an autocratic Government and it is hoped that the new SLPP regime, with a two-thirds majority, will not follow suit. We intend to exert pressure on the new regime while being in the Opposition, in order to grant relief to the masses and to introduce any healthy democratic political reforms. But, if the new Government attempts to rule like dictators, we will do our best to oppose such moves and bring the new administration back to the right path.
The result of the Election has shown, the strong Government sought by the President to implement proposals contained in his Election manifesto has been granted by the people. We’ve had our criticisms against this regime but the people have expressed their choice and whether we agree with that mandate or not, we have no other alternative but to accept it and work accordingly,” he stated.
Demise of a Giant
The United National Party (UNP) attributing its defeat to internal and external challenges, accepted responsibility for its failures and shortcomings and vowed to restructure the party going forward.
UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam requested party supporters to peacefully accept the outcome of the election.
Congratulating the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) for its landslide victory, Kariyawasam said it was the 19th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution introduced by the UNP-led Yahapalana Government that ensured this year’s election was conducted in a free and peaceful manner.
“The UNP also wishes to take this opportunity to thank all public officers, tri-forces and the police who got involved in conducting a free and fair election,” he added.
This election was interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic which partly contributed to the destruction of our economy, he said stressing that the UNP is the only party which presented a strategy to control COVID-19 and to resuscitate and strengthen the home economy.
“However, the people have given a massive mandate to the SLPP, and the UNP has encountered the greatest setback in its history despite many achievements which brought long-lasting benefits to the country and the people.
“As a party we faced many challenges internally as well as externally. The UNP is prepared to accept the responsibility for failures and shortcomings, both the result of its own actions and the actions of others,” he said.
Kariyawasam, who also lost his own seat in the Kurunegala District, further said it is evident that in this election the political parties based on policies have been overtaken by political movements.
“This could lead to an unstable political situation in the years to come,” he said.
“The party will be re-organised and re-structured to face the challenges and we will be moving forward with determination and vigour as has been done on previous occasions,” he added.
With SLPP Leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa polling a record-breaking 527,364 preferential votes in the Kurunegala District to become the Prime Minister, the current record bearer, Ranil Wickremesinghe (record of 500,566 preferential votes in the Colombo District, when he contested as the UNP prime ministerial candidate in 2015) bites the dust with not even being qualified for preferential votes to be counted. With UNP failing to secure 5 % of votes in any district or polling division, preferential votes of any of its candidates were counted.
Ever since its formation 73 years ago, on 6 September in 1946, the United National Party has failed to elect a member to the legislature. And, with the results of 5 August results, the 43-year-old continuous journey of Wickremesinghe as a Member of Parliament (only person to be in all eight Parliaments since 1977) came to an end.
His despotic behaviour, over the years, saw many loyals of the party joining opponents in groups time to time, before finally Party Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa departing with the cream of the party. Amongst many other allegations levelled against Wickremesinghe, his biases towards a certain group within the party against majority’s will had been prominent.
A man who could have driven Sri Lanka forward with his remarkable economic and political visions, his intelligence and his command and recognition in international community not only faced an unimaginable, embarrassing defeat but dragged country’s oldest and strongest political party down with him as he gave priority to his sexual orientation than that of his vision, as claimed by many in the past few years.