GP Insights # 395, 9 August 2020
On 7 August, the final results of the 16th Parliamentary Election of Sri Lanka were announced. The election to the Parliament witnessed a sweeping victory for the SLPP led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, securing the majority of 59 per cent of votes and 145 seats in the Parliament.
Despite the polls taking place amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, the voter turnout registered as high as 71 per cent and closed without any notable incidents of violence.
What is the background?
First, the election result was expected on similar lines. The SLPP managed to secure the win and is set to form a new government with 128 seats secured from the elections and another 17 seats from the National List, accounting for 145 members elected to the Parliament in total. This number falls five seats short of the required 150 seats needed to gain the two-thirds majority, but several elected candidates from the parties EPDP, TMVP and SLFP have already expressed their interest in aligning with SLPP to complete requirement. The SLPP, which is a relatively new party in the Sri Lankan political stage, was able to secure this victory due to the efficient leadership of the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose capable handling of the pandemic was highly commended. The votes from the Sinhala majority indicate that the President has inspired the public faith that he would be able to lessen the economic burden and lead the country towards prosperity.
Second, the weak Opposition. The newly formed Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) led by Sajith Premadasa secured nearly 24 per cent of the votes with 54 seats. The JVP reform Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB) managed to hold onto the expected 3 per cent of votes with three seats in the Parliament. The Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) that contested under the banner of TNA secured ten seats with votes from North and North East.
In a not so unexpected upset, the candidates of the United National Party (UNP) that were a part of the government after the previous elections, managed to win only one seat in the Parliament through the National List amounting to only 2.15 per cent of the votes cast. The UNP leader and former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe was unable to secure his own seat from the Colombo electorate, making it the first time that he has not been a member of the Parliament since 1977 as it is highly doubtful that he would take up the slot gained through the National List. Similarly, the SLFP who shared the government with the UNP earlier only secured a single seat from the Jaffna marking the end of two of the most prestigious political parties in the country. The cause for this sound defeat can be attributed to the previous government's failure to prevent the Easter Attack last year and the political instability that marked their rule damaging the citizen's trust in both parties.
What does it mean?
The SLPP huge win would inevitably see the repeal of the 19th Amendment shortly with the Rajapaksas consolidating power and being at the helm Sri Lanka. The President will be quick to carry out his manifesto "Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor" with the support of his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as the Prime Minister.
With the UNP absent, the SJB will have to step up to the role of the Opposition, acting as the only check for the Rajapaksas power. The politics of Sri Lanka is headed for a new direction as more than 60 Parliamentarians are freshly elected with limited female and minority representation.