US debate degenerates to Sri Lanka presidential poll standard

ECONOMYNEXT – The latest US presidential election debate between the two main candidates — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – degenerated to a new low and touched Sri Lankan standards of election campaigning.

In a first for the US, Trump said Hillary would be jailed if he was elected President at the November 8 elections, which are being closely followed across the globe because of Washington’s influence on world order.

"I didn’t think I’d say this, but I’m going to say it, and I hate to say it, but if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation," Trump said as she laughed at the idea of him being elected.

Unfazed, Trump went on to say: "There has never been so many lies, so much deception, there has never been anything like it, and we’re gonna have a special prosecutor."

Clinton butted in: "It’s just awfully good that somebody with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country."

Trump nodded and hit back: "Because you’d be in jail."

US media commentators saw the remark as a new low in their presidential election campaign, something that Sri Lankan candidates perfected years ago.

Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa threatened to jail his main opponent at the January 2010 election, a promise he kept by getting former army chief Sarath Fonseka imprisoned.

At the January 2015 election too, the same threats were thrown and the man who won went on to claim that he would not only have been jailed, but possibly killed if he had lost the election.

A poll by the US network CNN said 57 percent thought Clinton won the debate, while 34 percent saw Trump as the winner. Nine percent were unsure.





Before tens of millions of viewers in the US and elsewhere in the world, and an audience that included Bill Clinton and three women who accuse him of past abuse, the Republican nominee Trump shattered the last vestiges of political decorum and gave voice to incendiary allegations against the former president.

With his campaign in a tailspin, Trump apologised for "locker room talk" in which he bragged about groping women, but stated boldly that "Bill Clinton was abusive to women."

"If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse," Trump insisted. "Mine are words, his was action," he said, claiming that there has "never been anybody in the history of politics in this nation that’s been so abusive to women."

There was a similar moment in the 2015 election campaign in Sri Lanka too when the dirty tricks department of the Rajapaksa camp used a school boy to insult President Sirisena, the then common opposition candidate.

The coached child appeared on the state-run ITN channel accusing Sirisena of forcibly keeping his mother as his mistress. The move backfired, as it is likely to backfire on Trump for getting women allegedly abused by Clinton to be in the audience at Sunday’s debate seen in Colombo on Monday.

Trump faces a make-or-break moment after his crude boasts, which he made in 2005 that became public on Friday, as streams of Republicans have retracted their support for his campaign.

With a campaign based on earning free television air time and little ground game, Trump is dependent on the Republican party machinery to get out the vote.

Trump needs a dramatic boost if he is to claw back ground against Clinton, who has surged in the polls since their first debate on September 26.

However, recent elections in Britain (Brexit), Colombia (referendum on peace process) and Hungary (on immigrants) had gone  against all opinion polls and forecasts by pundits, and if the trend persists, Trump could still pull off another vote surprise. (COLOMBO, Oct 10, 2016)

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