This is a peculiar country where no party accepts electoral defeats. They have stock excuses ready for being thrashed. The SLFP kept trotting them out from 1977 to 1994 and only succeeded in duping itself but not the people. Yes, the JRJ and Premadasa governments abused power and rigged elections but the main reason why the SLFP continued to lose was more internal than external. It was faction ridden and lacked a clear vision as its leaders were at daggers drawn in a bid to engineer one another`s downfall. Had they got their act together, they would have been able to turn the tables on the UNP much earlier. The UNP could not have dreamt of having a better Opposition. It was only under a new leader (Chandrika Kumaratunga) that the SLFP came into its own and regained lost ground. Thereafter, the shoe was on the other foot for seven years.
The UNP continued to lose elections after 1994 and kept on blaming the SLFP for election malpractice without realising its weaknesses and doing precious little to correct them. After a string of crushing defeats at the hands of the Kumaratunga government was not second to its immediate predecessors as regards rigging elections, abusing State property and unleashing violence the UNP managed to make a comeback in 2001.
The UNP has been languishing in the Opposition since 2004, when it lost the last general election, owing to a leadership dispute and lack of direction. Its losses at the parliamentary election in 2004 and the presidential election the following year were due to its failure to manage its electoral fortunes and a disastrous peace process.
True, the present government has been blatantly abusing State power at elections. But, the Opposition`s inability to bounce back has more to do with its own faults than anything else. The UNP ridiculed the war and found itself in the company of anti-national forces sympathetic to the LTTE. Little wonder it continues to lose elections.
Surprisingly, the UNP claims the government has suffered a massive setback at Saturday`s Southern PC polls. The reason given is that the UPFA`s percentage has decreased, compared to that (72 per cent) at the Uva PC polls. The government, no doubt, expected a stellar performance in the South and dreamt of surpassing itself in its stronghold but had to settle for about 68 per cent of votes and 38 seats. However, that was no mean achievement as it obtained a two-thirds majority in terms of both votes and seats (38 out of 55) its percentage in the South has increased from 65 to 68 and the number of seats from 36 to 38.
The government, in fact, wanted a clean bill of health at the SPC polls before announcing a national election but developed a cough, which needs testing. However, the UNP`s condition is far worse it is a confirmed case of tuberculosis. Therefore, instead of deriving some perverse satisfaction from its rival`s cough, the UNP had better seek treatment for its disease immediately. (TB is curable!)
The UNP may be able to fool itself with such claims but not the discerning public. It had 19 seats in the previous Southern Provincial Council with 33.7 per cent of votes. Today, it is left with only 14 seats and 25 per cent of votes.
Rathu Sahodarayas are making a song and dance about the government`s failure on Saturday in the South to break its own record in Uva. Ironically, they have lost 11 out of 14 seats they had in the previous council. The JVP has polled 6 per cent of votes in the South and won only three seats. When the late JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera contested the 1982 Presidential Election, he obtained about 4 per cent of votes. At the 1999 Presidential Election, too, the JVP polled the same amount of votes with Nandana Gunathilake as the candidate. Compared to that percentage, Rathu Sahodarayas may claim, their strength has increased by 2 per cent in the South. But, a closer look reveals that at the 1999 PC polls in the South, the JVP polled over 12 per cent of votes and won 7 seats. Since a comparison of the JVP`s percentages at PC polls is not possible between 2009 and 2004, when the outfit contested on the UPFA ticket, 1999 should be taken as the base. On that basis, the JVP`s strength has decreased by 50 per cent (from 12 per cent to 6 per cent) in the South.
Thus, it may be seen that Rathu Sahodarayas shouting from the rooftops about the UPFA`s cough and the UNP`s consumption is suffering from the drug resistant tuberculosis.
The UNP and the JVP claim the country is heading for a dictatorship. If so, they cannot absolve themselves of their share of responsibility for the situation. For, an Opposition`s impotence is a necessary condition for the atrophy of democracy.
Nothing could be more self-defeating for the Opposition than to believe in its own rhetoric. If the UNP and the JVP are confident that the end of the Rajapaksa regime has begun in the South, the question is why they are so desperate for an outsider to be the Opposition`s common candidate at the next presidential election.
Why can`t they make do with either Ranil or Somawansa?