Sri Lanka faces the most crowded presidential poll with 35 candidates and a 26 inch long ballot paper that would certainly confuse every voter who goes to the polling station to vote on 16 November at the seventh Presidential Election; with the number of candidates contesting blown up twelve fold to that when the system was introduced in 1982, with a postcard size poll card.The front runners among the Presidential candidates are Sajith Premadasa, the UNP Deputy Leader and Minister a democrat representing the New Democratic Front (NDF), former Defence Ministry Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa an autocrat representing the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the third force JVP’s Parliamentary group leader Anura Kumara Diassanayake, representing the Jathika Jana Bala Vyaparaya (JJBV) and the alternate force, former Army Commander General Mahesh Senanayake of the Jathika Janatha Pakshaya (JJP).
Already all Tamil political parties in government have joined NDF as they consider its candidate Sajith to be the best choice out of the four front runners, as a leader who is prepared to built bridges between communities. In the meantime the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), having supported from opposition the government in which Sajith is a minister; though nothing has changed in the past four years, they want to review all aspects before informing their voters to vote for the Swan symbol of Sajith or consider any other of the four front line candidates.
In fact there is an opinion floating among Tamils speaking minority communities in the country that they should not only vote for Sajith, but also advise their representatives that includes the TNA to join the government of Sajith to work towards resolution of all the war related issues of its people. In addition, take forward the already drafted new constitution to get the state structure revised to provide checks and balances to enable all minorities to live with their basic rights to secure the multi ethnic and multi religious country. While there is an opinion circulated by few Tamil political parties not represented in parliament, that Tamils should boycott the Presidential Election. However, as the saying goes ‘once bitten twice shy’ applies well to the Tamils, would not be foolish to make the mistake made at the 2005 Presidential Election. Then Tamil voters blindly followed an effective order to boycott the polls; only to face heavy consequences that many are unlikely to forget in their life time.
Therefore as a responsible political party representing the Tamils, TNA has decided to wait for the manifestos of the leading candidates and based on the outcome of discussions would inform its voters to which front runner candidate they should vote. This goes well with the proposal made by the Jaffna University Students who suggested that all political parties representing the Tamils should plan meeting with the candidates to discuss their demands and based on the outcome to advise Tamils to vote to the candidate considered best by them at the forthcoming Presidential Election. Already the TNA leader has welcome this initiative from the Jaffna University Students and six political parties of Tamil speaking communities have indicated their willingness to adopt this procedure.
With thirty-five candidates contesting most of whom likely to end up as ‘also ran’, the TNA is to hold separate discussions with a view to select the best candidate from the four front runners and not bother with the other candidates. Of the four two are way ahead with the vote banks of their alliance parties with each amounting to about 30% of the votes; while the other two known as third force would start with about 5% and even less for the alternate force candidate and the other candidates receiving rest of the votes. Therefore with so many candidates splitting the votes nobody will get over 50% in the first count, in spite of the leading candidates fishing for much of the floating votes for victory; will have to wait to see how many more votes they can gather from the second choice count. The reality is that TNA’s support could certainly tilt the scale in favour of any one of the two lead candidates to win the poll.
As the largest Tamil party in parliament, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is yet to make it known of its intention to their voters, who no doubt are keen to exercise their franchise. However TNA leader has said they are holding discussions with the frontline candidates and has welcome the request made by the Tamil civil group in Jaffna that Tamil political parties should with the forerunners discuss the expectations of the Tamils. Based on the responses received TNA would inform their voters to participate in the election to vote for the selected candidate.