How Greece and Argentina Conducted Elections Despite Bankruptcy
After the economic crisis that emerged in Greece in 2011 and the country went bankrupt, the first thing Greece did was to go to the IMF and the European Union and appoint a new non-partisan prime minister. Greece is a country with an executive prime minister system. After the government and the opposition came together and appointed the former Deputy Central Bank Governor of the European Union as the Prime Minister, they went to the financial system and the European Union to ask for help, and the Greek government and the opposition said that they have reached an agreement to appoint a prime minister and a government with a popular mandate in 06 months. The IMF and the European Union approved the aid money based on that agreement.
After Ranil became the president, the representatives of the financial fund who came to Sri Lanka to reach an agreement on a basic agreement said that they need a popular mandate to fulfil the conditions of the financial fund. The representative of the financial fund clearly said that the government should go to a vote immediately.
Then the IMF Don’t you know that there is no money to hold elections in a bankrupt country…’
That’s how I feel when I hear Ranil’s government claim that there isn’t enough money to hold elections. If it is true that a bankrupt country has no money to vote, the IMF is not group of fools to demand elections? The IMF understands that the money spent to keep a country’s bankrupt government in place is a pittance compared to the money spent on elections. Ranil’s government can tell the people of Sri Lanka that there is no money to hold elections, but it cannot tell the IMF that. The IMF knows how much money a bankrupt country has or does not have.
IMF Does not mean set dumb fools. IMF asked to form an all-party interim government to receive aid. It means that IMF needs a government that think about the country betterment and does not think about politics to recover the country even if it receives aid. The IMF says that they should go to the polls in six months after the formation of the government. It is because a government with a people’s mandate to pay the foreign debt that is being restructured to get aid should come to power and the country should be politically stable and generate revenue.
In 1991, India experienced an economic crisis as well. Despite the fact that India did not go bankrupt like Greece, Argentina, or Sri Lanka, it was in the midst of a major crisis. At the time, an interim prime minister was appointed, and the government and opposition worked together to resolve the crisis and call a general election. During that election, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. Rajiv Gandhi was the opposition leader at the time, and Chandrasekhar was the coalition government’s prime minister.
Ranil is not a bipartisan president. Furthermore, he is not a duly elected Member of Parliament. Ranil’s government is not a bipartisan one. Following Gota’s resignation, the opposition and independent parties reached an agreement to appoint an all-party president and prime minister. Ranil forced the Rajapaksas to break the agreement and appoint himself as president. The IMF is aware of the way Ranil’s got elected as president. International financial institutions are also well aware of it.
The whole world knows that there is not only an economic crisis in Sri Lanka but also a political crisis. The world tells Sri Lanka that the first condition to solve the economic crisis is to solve the political crisis. The only way to solve a political crisis is to go to the public. The money spent on a vote is the best investment to solve Sri Lanka’s economic crisis. If there is no provision in the constitution to go to such a vote, all the parties representing the parliament should come together and come to an agreement to go to a vote.
Since the Podujana Peramuna does not like such an agreement, a small vote or provincial council vote, which can be held at present, should be held and a president with a popular mandate should appoint as a government. Emergency laws and anti-terror laws cannot stabilize a government. It is impossible to create political stability in a country.
‘Does this mean that voting is the only way to get the country out of this mess…?’
The world’s bankrupt countries believe so. Lebanon, which is bankrupt, is also hoping to recover by holding elections and forming a stable government. As a result, even in bankrupt Lebanon, the vote is called. Lebanon has realised that without elections, there is no political stability, and without political stability, it is impossible to recover from bankruptcy.
Greece thought so too. Even bankrupt Argentina thought so. Greece formed a government under a non-partisan executive prime minister and went to a vote in 6 months, and when a stable government could not be formed from that vote, it went to a vote again shortly after.
‘Did the Greek people then go to the polls to vote…?’
The people of Greece knew that they needed a strong and stable government to save the country from bankruptcy. They knew that money spent on votes was the best investment for the country’s political and economic stability.
Struggles occurred in Sri Lanka as well as in Greece and Argentina, the main countries among the bankrupt countries. The incumbent presidents and prime ministers stepped down. New presidents became prime ministers. Six months after their appointment, they faced the polls. The new presidents became prime ministers through the votes. They implemented the agreements made by the newly elected presidents and prime ministers with the international financial institutions in the previous six months.
That is not what is happening in Sri Lanka today. Just like in Greece and Argentina, there are struggles in Sri Lanka and the presidents and prime ministers leave and new presidents and prime ministers are appointed and they say, ‘There are no votes’. That means they have been appointed not to solve the economic crisis, not to solve the country’s political crisis, but to solve their own political crises.
Ranil wants to secure the presidency, which he could not win by a vote after being the party leader for more than 30 years.
The Rajapaksas want to stay out of the polls until there is an environment in which they can win the polls.
Members of the Podujana Peramuna want to protect their position as MPs for another three years without going to a vote.
Today, the majority of this government’s ministers are not represented by a political party. They are also unsure of their MP’s position in the upcoming election. That is why they do not want votes.
‘Does that mean they will make the bankrupt country even more bankrupt…?’
It seems so.
It has been almost 6 months since Ranil became the President. Generally, when there is an economic crisis or a political crisis in a country, the duration of an interim government is 06 months. It is a tradition to prepare all the plans that come out of the crisis during those 6 months and go to a general vote to implement them.
Even after six months, Ranil has made no plans to restructure the debt in order to overcome the crisis. Debt restructuring IMF Minister of State for Finance Semasinghe, who is going to the negotiations to get financial support from it, can’t even say the word “restored economy” in English. English word mispronunciation is not a problem. It’s also not Semasinghe’s fault. The fault is forcing him to negotiate debt restructuring with the IMF. Ranil was the one who was sent him to negotiate. These discussions should be attended by experts. Economists are the only ones who can speak about the subject implicitly.
‘Does that imply Ranil doesn’t want to resolve this crisis?’
Ranil has been appointed president to resolve the Rajapaksa crisis and to find a way to avoid the charge of destroying the United National Party. It is claimed that a people’s president and a government accountable to the people who elected them are required to resolve the crisis.
By Upul Joseph Fernando