September 22, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Winners and losers

September 22, 2013, 12:00 pm

The PC polls have ended without surprises. The UPFA has won  comfortably in the Northwestern (NWP) and Central Provinces (CP) and the TNA has  swept the polls in the Northern Province (NP). The UNP and the JVP have lost as  usual and Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s newly formed Democratic Party (DP) has got  something to crow about. The Elections Commissioner says the polls were free and  fair in spite of several incidents.

The TNA has naturally become the centre of attention. It bagged  the North in style by winning all electorates in that province and obtaining  78.48% of the votes and 30 seats—UPFA 18.38% and 7 seats, the SLMC 1.5 % and one  seat and the UNP 0.68% and no seat. For a political party, winning an election  is one thing but retaining its popularity as well as honouring its promises is  quite another. This is the task before the TNA. It has a choice between adopting  a confrontational approach in dealing with the government from the word go and  making use of its popular mandate to work for the betterment of the North. This  is the first time the TNA is going to wield power and whether it will be able to  live up to people’s expectations remains to be seen.

Either the UNP or the SLFP has so far controlled the provincial  councils since the EPRLF-run North-East PC was dissolved in 1989. With the TNA  out to exercise all powers under the 13th Amendment we will see how devolution  really works.

The DP has eaten into the vote bases of the UPFA, the UNP and  the JVP considerably. In the NWP it polled 4.34% of votes (3 seats)—UPFA 66.43%  (34 seats), UNP 24.21% (12 seats), SLMC 2.62% (two seats) and JVP 1.85% (one  seat). In the Central Province it polled 3.8% of votes and won two seats—UPFA  60.16% (36 seats), UNP 27.79%, (16 seats), CWC P-wing 2.46% (two seats), SLMC  1.49% (one seat), the Up Country People’s Front 2.09% (one seat) and the JVP  1.17% (no seat).

Gen. Fonseka has proved that hard work pays. He beavered away at  his party’s polls campaign for weeks on end, addressing as he did hundreds of  pocket meetings. However, if he is to realise his goal of challenging the  government effectively his target should be the UNP and not the JVP.

The need for a course correction has been staring the UNP in the  face for a long time. Unless it sorted out its internal problems and got its act  together without relying on forging alliances with microscopic parties to gain  political traction, a comeback wouldn’t be possible in the foreseeable future.  Its vote base has shrunk in the NWP from 28.07% (in 2009) to 24.21% and the  number of seats has dropped from 14 (in 2009) to 12. In the CP its votes have  come down from 38.65% (in 2009) to 27.79% and the number of its seats has  decreased from 22 (in 2009) to 16. It managed to win only one electorate (Mahanuwara)  out of a total of 40 in the two provinces.

The UPFA has reason to worry in the NWP. It mobilised the entire  state machinery in its expensive election campaign, but its vote base has shrunk  from 69.43% (in 2009) to 66.43%. It has lost three seats out of 37 it had in the  previous council. However, it obtained 60.16% of votes in the CP as opposed to  59.53% in 2009 and retained all its seats (36). It has, no doubt, secured a  bridgehead in northern politics but it has its work cut out where the expansion  of its support base in that part of the country is concerned. Development alone  won’t work.

The government, however, ought to continue its development work  in the North in spite of the TNA’s spectacular victory the way it is doing in  the Colombo City despite its loss to the UNP at the last local government polls.  The interests of people should take precedence over everything else.

One of our journalists who toured the North prior to the PC  polls tells us that in Kilinochchi an elderly Tamil gentleman who had nice  things to say about the government, when asked whether he would vote for the  UPFA, answered in the negative. He said the TNA was his choice. Asked why, he  replied, “Simply because a woman smiles with a man, it doesn’t mean she is ready  to marry him.” Perhaps, this is the best description of the people’s verdict in  the North.

The North has smiled and it is up to the government to woo her  further and build a strong relationship.