30 years, from 1994 to 2024. For all those 30 years, the U.N.P. has won only one mini-election…’ This is the story told by a green U.N.P. stalwart. The reason for that is that for the U.N.P. leader the mini-election is not a big election. But since 1994 to 2018, the SLFP and, after 2018, Pohottuwa have been holding power because they strengthened the grassroots of the party and won mini elections. But Ranil is a leader who does not care about the grassroots of the party.
‘Is he still afraid of the mini election, because of that…?’
That is not the fear today. Today’s fear is that the mini election will prove that there is no popular mandate for his presidency. It is no secret that Ranil’s U.N.P. will not be able to find candidates if they go to a mini election this moment. In 2018 among the elected U.N.P. candidates, now most are with Samagi Jana Balavega. They are seeking nominations from Samagi Jana Balavega. This election is a three-way battle. The three-way battle is between Pohottuwa, Samagi Jana Balawega and the JVP.
The U.N.P does not even have the place that the SLFP has today. The U.N.P. cannot even come close to the number of candidates that the SLFP can claim alone. At present, Ranil became Pohottuwa president and became unpopular among the UNP supporters who voted in 2020 general election and those who did not vote for both SJB and UNP and stayed home.
The UNP members are anti-Rajapaksa. The UNP members are not those who go behind Ranil to get his favours. They are hereditary UNPrs. Their common enemy is the Rajapaksas. They don’t want to go behind Rajapakse because Ranil does. This is clearly seen by those self-centered UNPrs, and they claim that Ranil got the presidency of the UNP after 28 years. However, none of them were able to gather a single party for a village level committee meeting. The reason is because they know that Ranil took the presidency to protect the Rajapakses and because Ranil’s presidency has not done anything good for the UNP.
’ Then if there is a mini election, will Ranil be destroyed…?’
If Ranil wants to save his face in a mini election, he should join the pohottuwa. Then Ranil can save his face by sneaking into Pohottuwa’s votes. But it is certain that the U.N.P.’s are not going to sneak under the pohottuwa even though Ranil joined. Pohottuwa knows that Ranil does not even have the votes he got in the 2020 general election. Therefore, if Ranil comes to sneak behind Pohottuwa, Pohottuwa will impose conditions on Ranil. Ranil knows this. Hence, Ranil, the mini election is like the saying “if you go home, you die,” and “even if you stay on the road, you die’.
Many big things have happened in Sri Lanka’s political history in mini elections though it is mini elections
The 17 years of U.N.P. rule began to fall apart after the 1991 mini elections. In that mini election, then President Premadasa, tried to make Ratnasiri Wickramanayake as Colombo Mayor. This angered M.H. Mohammad and Lalit Athulathmudali . This vibration from this little vote eventually turned into an impeachment against Premadasa.
Chandrika won the general election in 1994 with one more vote in the parliament. Everyone thought that the defeated UNP would come to power next day. The reason is that only one MP was needed to topple Chandrika’s government. But in 1997, Chandrika became powerful in the small vote because of Nalanda Ellawala’s murder. The U.N.P., which tried to get rid of the corruption-terrorism label and emerge as a clean party, was again crippled by the brand of terror on election nomination day with the murder of Ratnapura MP Nalanda Ellawala. In 1997, the JVP, which had one national list member position in the parliament, came back to life. Wimall and the crowd were elected to municipal council in the 1997 mini-elections. JVP, was developed from there.
In 2002, the UNP won the mini-election. The mini vote in 2002 was the vote that ended Bandaranaike’s politics. The Bandaranaikes lost their stronghold of Attanagalle first in the 1982 referendum, and again in 2002, when Chandrika was in office, when Bandaranaike’s stronghold, Atthanagalla, was defeated. Road paved for SLFP to join with JVP after this mini election. Bandaranayakes went down, and Mahinda Rajapakse was able to rise because of these mini-elections. Even though-Mahinda lost his seat and district in Hambantota, the SLFP-JVP alliance was formed for Mahinda to become president because the results of the small elections caused the SLFP to suffer an extreme defeat.
Although Mahinda was the president when the 2006 mini-election was held, the JVP was in a very strong position and the SLFP was in a very weak position. The reason for that is that in the 2004 general election, the JVP candidates were supported by the SLFP-JVP alliance, undermining the SLFP strongmen. Mahinda won the 2005 presidential election with the backing of the JVP. Because of this, the SLFP was in a very weak position. But in the 2006 mini-election, the SLFP became stronger, and the JVP fell to a very weak position. The JVP, which shook the country starting from the 1997 mini-election, the 2004 general election, and the 2005 presidential election, weakened in the 2006 mini-election, and after that, the party broke up and was destroyed.
The next mini election was in 2011. The beginning of Mahinda’s end starts with that mini election. In the battle between SLFPs Mahinda loyalist Bharata Laxman and UNP’s Duminda Silva for the Kolonnawa Municipal Council, the Rajapaksas took Duminda’s side, while SLFP General Secretary Maithripala took Bharata Laxman’s side. In the 2015 presidential election, the party was divided due to the assassination of Bharata Laxman in the 2011 mini-election. Maithrie leaves the Rajapaksa in 2015 because of the conflict that started in the 2011 mini elections.
For the first time in Sri Lanka’s mini election history, a government was defeated in the 2018 mini-election. The newly formed Podujana Peramuna raised its head for the first time in the 2018 election. In that small election, after defeating President Maitri’s Sri Lankan Freedom Party and Prime Minister Ranil’s U.N.P., the newly formed Podu Jana Peramuna took over the country by bringing the Rajapaksa’s who fell in 2015 back to the fore.
Although this is a small election, it is a big win. The little vote turns Sri Lankan politics upside down and is a guide to who will be the next president. Chandrika, who returned from London in 1991, joined the SLFP and entered the political arena from the Bahujana Freedom Front in 1991 election. She became president in 1994. In the mini-elections of 1997, she proved that the U.N.P. could not take power. She became president in 1999. The narrow vote in 2002 marked the beginning of the end of Bandaranaike’s politics by paving the way for the SLFP-JVP alliance. Mahinda became president in 2005 after suppressing the Bandaranaikes.
In 2006, the JVP was weakened and the power of the Mahindas, the Rajapaksa’s and the Sri Lankan Freedom Party was shown in the 2006 mini-election. Mahinda became president again. The end of Mahinda and the rise of Maithripala started with the 2011 election. Maithripala became the President in 2015. The Rajapaksa family came back to the fore in the 2018 election, marking the end of the Maithripala-Ranil good governance. Gota became the President in 2019.
‘Will this mini election show the way for the 2024 president…?’
Those who do not see the way to the presidency in 2024 tremble with fear and decide to postpone the mini election because they know the mini elections would show the way to the presidency in 2024.
By Upul Joseph Fernando