Politicians flashing mega watt saccharine smiles lay bare their true faces when their interests are threatened. Nothing disturbs them more than the prospect of losing power. Hence, in jousting for power, they leave nothing to chance. When they contest elections, they have no friends there are only foes to be defeated by hook or by crook. With a few more days to go for the parliamentary polls, candidates of all hues have stepped up battles for preferential votes.
The police have said that the intra party clashes of the UPFA for preferential votes account for over one half of the election related incidents reported so far. There have been `manape` battles since the inception of the Proportional Representation (PR) system but this time around there appears to be an increase in home and home battles. The situation has become so bad in the government camp that President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself has had to intervene to restrain some of his ambitious candidates on the rampage. The UNF is also experiencing bitterly fought battles for preferences, but not to the same extent as the government.
On seeing the high octane performance on the part of his otherwise laid-back parliamentarians who are now working themselves into the ground, President Rajapaksa must be thinking to himself that if they had campaigned for him as hard as they are doing now, he would have polled not just 58 per cent of votes at the Jan. 26 presidential election but much more! Some of the ministers who look the worse for wear today because of intense campaigning to retain their seats strangely looked as fresh as the morning dew during the presidential election!
President Rajapaksa, who warned his candidates about two weeks ago that those who won by violating election laws and party discipline would be deemed disqualified for holding ministerial posts in his government, said last week that the number of preferential votes a candidate polled would not be the only criterion for Cabinet appointments. Even an MP at the bottom of the preferential votes list might be appointed to the Cabinet if he or she met the other criteria, the President said. His message may have been loud and clear but it is only wishful thinking that the UPFA candidates will be scared into submission. For, their election depends on the number of preferential votes they manage to obtain. They are also aware that if the President were to exclude successful candidates from his Cabinet on those grounds, he would be left without enough ministers. (In other words, if the President translated his words into action, he would have a tiny Cabinet.)
The steep rise in the manape related clashes within his camp is a sad reflection on President Rajapaksa. It amounts to his failure to make his team fall in line in spite of being a strong leader. It is time he put his foot down and asked the UPFA candidates to behave or depart.
`Two dogs at the same bone seldom agree.` The more, the worse! Warnings and exhortations are of little use in handling hard-boiled ambitious politicians engaged in a ruthless contest for power at any cost. They won`t let go of one another`s jugular simply because they are being urged to do so. Stern action is called for.
A permanent solution to the manape war is to reform the electoral system which favours the rich in the fray. However, that does not mean nothing should or could be done until such time. However flawed the system may be, candidates must be made to abide by the election laws and party discipline. Let President Rajapaksa prove that he is capable of enforcing party discipline and controlling his unruly candidates.