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What if Mahinda wins?

[Lakbima News, Sunday, 24 January 2010 10:20 No Comment]

The opposition must stay united after this badly flawed election

Nobody is going to change his mind at this late stage, so today I intend to forget about canvassing the relative merits of different candidates. It’s time to brace for some other eventualities. I am one among many – well over 50% of the population I believe – who wants regime change. The residual echoes of war victory, and the malignant dark-side of a regime which cares not a penny for the law, make the latter a possible outcome – within 50:50 plus-minus 5%. There has been flagrant abuse of state resources, property and funds and oceans of newsprint have had zero effect on the guardians and servants of the public; hence the odds have become close.

Electoral malpractices abound, forcing the Elections Commissioner to throw up his hands in futile desperation. He has been rendered impotent; the police ignore his directives so he has stopped sending them directives; he has withdrawn the Competent Authority appointed to keep a tab on the networks because state media bosses thumb their noses with impunity. The police, the elections department, the justices and the public service are all impotent in the face of a power drunk executive. An executive presidency that arrogates to itself such monstrous power, in bold and blatant violation of all the norms of good governance, this is something that even that ghoul JR could not have foreseen.

Is the worst still to come?

The situation is deteriorating so rapidly that the worst may come two days after you read these lines. And let me not mince my words, more than electoral violence in which respect the opposition has shown that it can give as good as it receives and thus frightened the goons somewhat, my greater fear is horrendous rigging, especially, but only, in Jaffna District and the Vanni. Let me paint a worst case scenario which is within the realm of possibility.

There are about 700,000 names on the Jaffna District register, but very few polling cards have been delivered because a huge number of people are dead or departed. Projecting from deliveries up to the time of writing, the most optimistic estimate would be 300,000 cards delivered and 400,000 languishing in bundles in post offices by 26 January. Thus far not rumour but fact plus sensible projection.

Now let us add in the most popular rumour in town: Frenetic preparations are being made by a cabal top personnel who command guns and big manpower to move in on this golden opportunity. Impersonate on a grand scale! It does not matter who the strategists are, the moral of my story does not depend on that. There has been so much abuse of state power that one cannot intelligently dismiss such rumours.

Secondly, the TNA is in such sorry state of collapse and disrepair it has no presence on the ground in precarious areas. To date, it has proved incapable of mounting a campaign in support of the candidate of its choice; no meetings, lawful posters, canvassing – nothing. It has no organisation, no manpower, no cadres to rally! The leaders are shit scared and hide in Colombo. It will not be able to provide any grassroots activists to monitor and expose impersonation; heaven knows whether there will even be polling agents in most booths. If Fonseka has reached a deal with the TNA to help Tamil problems, it seems he has drawn the very short end of the straw. It is farcical that Tamils in return, can only deliver hundreds of thousands of hora-votes in favour of the presidential incumbent!

If there are indeed dark forces planning to impersonate tens or hundreds of thousands of Tamil votes they need to stop and think again. Imagine a situation like this: Outside the North, Fonseka leads by, say 200,000 votes. Then the results for Jaffna and the Vanni come in. There Rajapaksa holds a massive lead of 250,000 and the result is reversed! Amazingly 70% in these districts have voted! If you want to shove a red-rag up both ends of a bull and start riots on the streets of Colombo, there is no better way to do it.

Another point is that anybody thinking of impersonating on this scale may end up with Dayananda Dissanayake annulling the poll en masse in all locations where massive fraud is obvious. The Commissioner too has good reason for not wanting to set the country aflame. So mass scale impersonators back off, you may achieve nothing.

Whether the joint opposition candidate wins or loses, the campaign has put the fright of Moses into the regime and its hangers on. It has brought to the surface deep public anger about corruption and abuse or power, quickly overriding the triumphal euphoria of war victory in Sinhala polity. The joint opposition, expanded by inclusion of the Left parties, must stay strong and united and build on these gains if the regime wins a second term. It will be a regime of crisis; most likely it will fall with a bang in a few years because it has absolutely nothing to offer.

Mahinda’s defeat and a return to racism

The most troubling development following a Rajapaksa defeat will be a UPFA turn to race politics. What other campaign slogan for the impending general election? It will have nothing else to campaign on once crimes and corruption of recent years are exposed. The groundwork is already being laid in describing the Fonseka-TNA alliance as treachery, selling the country to the bloody Demalas and plotting with LTTE agents to divide the country. We have been through it all before from 1958 (UNP), to 1965 (SLFP, LSSP, CP), to 1983 (UNP), to 2000 (UNP). This heady decoction of racism is the first and last resort of both the SLFP (now with the LSSP, CP and DLF in tow) and the UNP, when in a tight spot. And the UPFA will be in a terrible tight spot if Rajapaksa loses and the mountain of crimes committed in the last four years is exposed.

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