Sri Lankan preferential voting to push same party candidates into a battle!

Sri Lanka has a proportional system at the district level and a proportional system at the national level based on the same poll. Prior to 1978 there was the first-past-the-post system based on constituencies with individual candidates and the candidate obtaining the highest number of votes in respect of the constituency was declared elected.

This was changed in 1978 to a system of Proportional Representation and all 196 Members of Parliament returned on the basis of the voting in the respective of 22 electoral districts; with 29 members declared elected on the basis of the total number of votes polled by the respective political parties at the national level, as the National List.

At a time when Tamils in the north, particularly in Jaffna peninsula are understanding the position of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leaders selecting a “middle path” as most feasible to settle outstanding issues, including those many thorny post war related issues with the Government. At the same time TNA would work with the state and concentrate their efforts to uplift the economy of northeastern region to enable their people to get on with their life with all communities in a united Sri Lanka.

Upsetting TNA’s campaign plans for the forthcoming 2020 parliamentary election are many Tamil political parties, who are impatient with the progress of TNA over a decade of negative peace years. They are all contesting in Jaffna electroral district; compared to the TNA are pursuing two extremes of servile conciliatory politics on the one hand and other with abrasive confrontational politics.

All these Tamil parties formed by splinter groups differ from the TNA; as they want to go beyond, seeking merger of north and east provinces as per the 13th Amendment to the constitution, that no rulers are not willing to agree. Whereas, the new President want people to give him two third majority at the polls to replace the present Draconian  Constitution, that enabled past rulers to drag the ruled to a cruel civil-war.

Whereas TNA accepting the reality that merged northeast is a matter for people living in that region to decide. What is acceptable to all and already entrusted by the parliament that the language of administration in both of these provinces is Tamil, the mother tongue of the majority living in the region. Also known fact is that there are issues as land and police not yet implemented as agreed in the accord.

In this scenario, it is necessary for the TNA leadership to discuss and devise with their candidates from political parties in the Alliance, their strategies for the 2020 election campaign. What has surfaced now is that a former Jaffna District MP elected from the TNA and a senior member of its chief constituent, the Ilankai Thamil Arasuk Katchi (ITAK) is busy these days spending time on an unethical pastime with a very selfish approach to secure his own victory, than joining with the collective plan with others in ITAK and least with TNA.

With the rest of the candidates in TNA are continuing their election campaign to secure victory of all their former TNA Members of Parliament. In addition to their parliamentary colleagues are working on a noble objective to increase representation in the new parliament of the TNA with one or more younger members.

In the meantime the former Jaffna District MP elected from the TNA and senior member of the ITAK has from within the party opened a doubled barrel attack against his long time parlimentary colleagues. These activities on the two TNA members are without any noble objectives. As both are independent minded and considered able members both inside and outside parliament.

These developments within TNA have been welcomed and exploited by their opponents, most of whom had in the past years been in the TNA and are contesting with the objectives to spoil the activities undertaken by TNA. Also battling for the same gvotes are larger national political parties and many independent groups. All are intended to break the hold TNA has on people living in the northeast of the country.

This internal conflict within the TNA is best understood in the context of competition between candidates on the same party list to secure more preference votes; as all wanting to occupy the limited parlimentary seats available for candidates contesting the election from northeastern region of Sri Lanka.

For given the drop in TNA votes at 2018 local authority polls compared to the 2015 General Elections and with over 300 candidates competing for the seven seats, possibilty exist that TNA may lose more votes and win perhaps only four seats in 2020. If proven true would result in one of their five Jaffna MPs elected in 2015 being knocked out of reckoning.

As Jaffna electoral district comprises of the administrative districts of Kilinochchi and Jaffna that elects seven MPs, in the 2015 election five were elected from the TNA, one from the EPDP and one from the UNP. Of the five TNA elected four are from ITAK and the other PLOTE. Of the four ITAK the said senior member was placed fifth in terms of number of votes received and is in jitters that he may lose the parliamentary seat.

Accordingly, chances of last being elected as MP again is nil if people elect only four from the TNA in 2020. The only way to ensure success for this last in the list member was to align his campaign with that of the ITAK leader a strong fellow candidate. Thus the least popular, said senior member opted to hitch on to the election campaign of ITAK  leader.

However the campaign against Sumanthiran had been launched by the newspapers controlled by Saravanapavan long before the elections were announced. For Saravanapavan had identified Sumanthiran as the most vulnerable target of TNA opponents and hence intensified attacks on him through his newspapers.

Further, the said senior member run newspapers conducted a systematic campaign of publishing news and views that are highly adverse against two active TNA members. Ironically, it was this most active member, who as a professional lawyer and his juniors who had appeared in several past cases concerning said newspapers. Some cases were won while others are pending. Yet, it is that media that is now regularly attacking the lawyer who defended them in court.

The other active member, whose political stronghold is Kilinochchi too was attacked in the same media, made repeated complaints to ITAK leader about these attacks and raised the issue in party meetings too. But to everyone surprise the leader who perceives the media mogul as a tactical ally was reluctant to take any action in this regard.

The ITAK leader neither restrained nor reprimanded his faulty team man with the excuse that he did not want to interfere with press freedom. Thus least popular MP continued merrily attacking his former colleagues in parliament.

In this scenario it is very important that Tamils must not get misled by TNA’s opponents, those within and outside the Alliance, who are throwing baseless allegations at Election campaigns on these two senior members, who have been ethical and fully professional in addition to being very productive.

With preferential voting system and the infighting among TNA candidates; as the saying goes the trees that bears fruits gets stoned most, for without the two talented members, the TNA will be the loser and in turn the Tamils, particularly those living in northeast region. Thus the Tamils must think out of box to select an able quality TNA candidate from the ballot paper, no matter which political party chosen candidate represent in the TNA alliance to cast their valuable vote at the 2020 General Election.