Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in an interview with the Hindu has acknowledged that Gotabaya would definitely be a contender at the next elections
- Another point that he stressed upon is the importance of the premiership after the enactment of the 19th Amendment
- The 19th Amendment clipped the wings of the President drastically
- The present President is more like a wing-clipped bird in that sense
- The future Presidents, who would call the shots after 2020, will be devoid of such extra portfolios
President Maithripala Sirisena’s recent speech in Nivithigala gave people a glimpse of his political strategy which contains plans for 2019; theperiod ahead of the presidential polls. In his speech delivered last Saturday, he said he would not call for a snap presidential election. That way, he cleared the air of political rumours that the presidential elections would be conducted early next year. Now, the presidential elections will be conducted according to schedule; towards the end of 2019.
In his speech, the President tried to assess the standing of the mainstream parties based on their performance at the February 10th local authorities’ election. Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), which contested under ‘Pohottuwa’ (lotus bud) symbol emerged the single largest party at this election.
Nevertheless, the President said that the ‘Pohottuwa’ would get only 102 parliamentary seats if it were a parliamentary election and it would not suffice to form a government single-handedly. Also, he said that the UNP, which trailed behind Pohottuwa, had overrated itself. All in all, he said 1.5 million votes polled by his United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) as the third force would be the decisive factor at a national election.
“Without our support, nobody can succeed,” he said.
President tries to assume electoral significance
The message he tried to drive home is obvious. His intention, by revitalizing his vote base, is to assume the role of kingmaker in politics at future elections. For any party to secure the presidency, it is sine qua non to obtain more than 51 percent of total votes polled at a presidential election. As such, the President is in the belief that his vote vase would only determine who could clinch the required percentage of votes at the next elections. So, he tries to gain electoral significance or to become a force to be reckoned with, by claiming to have bargaining power in the formation of a Government.
Let alone the President’s opinion, the voting pattern at a local Government election will not remain the same at a national election. Therefore, it is impossible to use the performance of a political party at a local election as the yardstick to measure its possible strength at a national election. That is because people’s voting pattern differs from a local election to a national election.
The UPFA headed by the President received 1.5 million votes. It will not remain the same at a national election. It can either improve or decrease.
Another point that he stressed upon is the importance of the premiership after the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. He said the Prime Minister’s post would be all powerful in the future, and therefore one should talk about the eligibility of the Prime Minister rather than that of the President.
President is more like a wing-clipped bird
The 19th Amendment clipped the wings of the President drastically. Once appointed, he cannot remove the Prime Minister. Also, the Cabinet of Ministers has to be appointed in consultation with the Prime Minister only. Alongside, after the formation, the President cannot dissolve Parliament for four and half years. The present President is more like a wing-clipped bird in that sense. However, in the enactment of the 19th Amendment, there was certain relief or exemption granted to the current President- that is, he can hold ministerial posts in addition to the defence portfolio. Today, the President is also the minister in charge of the environment and Mahaweli Development as a result.
The future Presidents, who would call the shots after 2020, will be devoid of such extra portfolios. So, their hands will further be tightened. Accordingly, it is well understandable as to why the President attached such significance to the post of Prime Minister.
After making such remarks in his speech, which received wide publicity in both print and electronic media, the President managed to reduce the limelight on the presidential election.
MR says Gota a definite candidate
Be that as it may, his erstwhile colleague, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, stirred the debate and raised it to a new level when he said in India that his brother would definitely be a contender. He made such remarks in an interview with the Hindu.
When the President subdued the debate, Rajapaksa inflamed it further. Actually, there was a school of thought within the Joint Opposition that former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be nominated as the candidate now.
MPs like Wimal Weerawansa held this view. They believe such nomination would constrict space for the Government to politically victimize Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
“If there is a formal nomination, there will be more and more people gathered around him. Then, it will be difficult for the Government to do any harm to him politically,” he said.