The outcome of last week s parliamentary polls is tantamount to a vote of confidence in President Mahinda Rajapaksa`s government, which some members of the international community, separatists and their local allies went the whole hog to dislodge in a bid to install a puppet regime and create a situation conducive to the revival of secessionist forces here.
UNP and Opposition Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, is trying to make an issue of the low voter turn-out on Thursday. He claims that the government has not received a mandate as many voters did not exercise their franchise. In the same breath, he says that he is going to overhaul his party. If the government has not got a mandate as such, why should the UNP be overhauled? In a way, he is not to be taken seriously because he is known for trotting out lame excuses for debacles.
The government has obtained a clear majority close to two-thirds of seats in Parliament according to the results announced so far and the projected results indicate that it will get nearly 143 seats. It is a pity that the Opposition Leader is not aware that the outcome of an electoral exercise is determined on the basis of the number of votes cast and not on the basis of votes not cast!
There are several reasons for the low voter turn-out at Thursday`s general election. It came even before the `indelible` ink applied on voters` fingers at the Presidential election had disappeared completely. The Opposition was utterly demoralised because of the ignominious defeat it had suffered at the presidential polls and most Opposition supporters did not care to venture out and vote. That election also came with a few days to go for the traditional New Year, which is to be celebrated on a grand scale. The country has gone to the polls too many times for the past two years and many people are simply sick of elections. In the North, electoral registers are rather misleading. Most people listed there are not present in that part of the country. They have either migrated to the Western Province or gone abroad. An extremely low voter participation in the North also led to a drop in the overall voter turn-out in the country. However, the fact remains that most northerners who are still reeling from the war did not consider voting a priority as they are more concerned about rebuilding their lives.
At the next election Local Government polls the voter turn-out is very likely to plummet further. The UNP, as the main Opposition party, must take its share of the blame for the anti-government camp`s failure to enthuse its supporters into voting.
Never mind what the losing side says. Now, it is up to the government to do what it has sought and got a mandate for. It cannot go on re-enacting the final battle (on the political front) till the cows come home. It has to deliver on its promises. It undertook to eliminate the political causes of the conflict, reduce poverty, double the per capita income (with an equitable distribution of national wealth, of course) and, above all, to re-democratise society and restore the rule of law.
First of all, the government ought to desist from making a mockery of the popular will, when it appoints the National List MPs after the final result is announced on April 21. Among the big losers at Thursday`s polls are several ministers. They have been rejected by the people well and truly. It is learnt that some of them are toying with the idea of making a comeback via the National List, which has been abused all these years to accommodate political rejects in Parliament. It is incumbent upon the government to honour its promise that it will not appoint as MP anyone whose name does not appear on the National List presented to the people. Similarly, it is hoped that President Rajapaksa will select his National List MPs wisely.
If the government reneges on its pledge and catapults political rejects to Parliament through its National List, its action will amount to taking the people for a ride. The same goes for the Opposition.