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Sri Lanka Parliamentary Elections : Candidates from the same party fight each other

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s electoral system and its method of choosing the final winning candidates through the preferential system leads to some unique situations – and one of them is that candidates from the same party will be firing shots at each other.

Over the weekend there has been hectic politicking and campaigning with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stumping in Polonnaruwa.

In Gampaha, however, the newsmaker has been Prasanna Ranatunga who has continued to air his caustic opinions about the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

Now the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is the biggest creature in this election and it is allied to a number of other parties to form the alliance called the Sri Lanka Nidahas Podujana Peramuna (SLNPP).

The Nidahas in the title comes from the alliance with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which has ruled this country for the longest time.

And of course, most of the politicians in the SLPP are ex-SLFPers or had been allied to the SLFP at some stage.

So when Ranatunga fired a volley at former President Maithripala Sirisena there has been some concern.

He, in fact, took a regular Manape fight up a notch.

Ranatunga told a rally in Beliatte on Friday that “no-one should vote for any candidate who has anything to do with former President Maithripala Sirisena.”

“He has put up posters in Polonnaruwa saying the next Prime Minister will be from that city,” Ranatunga said adding that “the next Prime Minister will be Mahinda Rajapaksa and we all know that.”

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He said that Sirisena could not be trusted. “He ate a meal with Mahinda Rajapaksa and then went away and betrayed him,” Ranatunga thundered.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was at the meeting, and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was campaigning with former President Sirisena in Polonnaruwa the day after.

Ranatunga who is a Cabinet Minister in the caretaker government said that the alliance with the SLFP was formed to win the Presidential election. “The Alliance rules don’t apply now,” he claimed. “We were cunning and got them to join us to win the Presidential election.”

The General Secretary of the SLFP Dayasiri Jayasekara responded to Ranatunga but did not deign to mention his name.

He did, however, refer to the Minister’s shape, saying “a certain portly person” has asked voters to refrain from backing anyone connected to the former President.

“I know he is referring to us who are from the SLFP, but are contesting from the Pohottuwa (Flower Bud symbol of the SLPP.)”

He added an insult. “Those who have much around their waists should have something in their brains as well,” the suave lawyer said.

Fights over preferential votes have been a bane of Sri Lankan Parliamentary polls. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa, a former General-Secretary of the SLFP says “this is a curse.”

He points out that under the present system where a candidate has to fight not only his rivals from other political parties but even those in his own party is a serious issue.

The amount that candidates have to spend on their elections has as a result risen exponentially, he says.

“We will not get good, decent men and women into Parliament under this system,” he says.

“There should be Constitutional Reform and the first thing is this election system must be changed.”(Colombo, July 6, 2020)

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