Sajith Premadasa, Leader of the SJB in Parliament, strategically withdrawing from the race, has made Wednesday’s election of a stop-gap President for Sri Lanka as complex as it is interesting for the candidates running for the position and the onlookers who will be watching the results. Those who assumed Acting New President Ranil Wickremesinghe had a lock on the presidency due to the three-cornered race aren’t adding up the “unknown” numbers in the second round, where the election may now be decided.
The ‘ruling’ SLPP rebel, Dullas Alahapperuma, is currently running for the position. He is now a devotee of Mahinda Rajapaksa, who served two terms as president. However, his chances have improved since Sajith’s SJB promised to support Dullas Alahapperuma. The SJB currently has 54 MPs registered, but four have already joined the “ruling” coalition.
What Happens in the Second Round?
Ranil has a good chance of advancing in the first round. With only one UNP MP, he relies entirely on the Rajapaksa family for political survival. However, there is another problem. The Rajapaksas have remained silent, including Mahinda and his discredited former Finance Minister and one-time strategist brother, Basil Rajapaksa.
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According to reports, an SLPP official claimed Rajapaksa’s support and reaffirmed it when challenged. SLPP chairman and Foreign Minister GL Peiris have backed Dullas Alahapperuma, citing that the latter was elected to the House of Representatives on an SLPP ticket in 2010.
The opposing party has yet to respond to Peiris’ claim that because the party’s parliamentary group had not yet met to make a decision, unilateral announcements were not binding. Furthermore, he appears to be of the same type.
As New President, Ranil should give Sri Lanka international aid.
The SJB has been informed that if they vote for Dullas, he will appoint Sajith as Prime Minister of his administration. The SLPP’s moderate spokesman, GL Peiris, has also endorsed that they are doing so isoform a “national government” with the country’s two largest parties, as if it were their decision. GL Peiris supports the decision as if the SLPP made it.
This assertion is only partially correct.
Although Sri Lanka relies on international players, Ranil is a better manager than them. Economic recovery could take up to a decade, but Ranil is expected to take the first few but decisive steps.
Suppose the winner is not chosen in the first round. In that case, parliamentarians will vote in the second round to determine which of the top two candidates receives a combined majority of 113 votes from the entire House. Members of the SLPP are expected to cast more second-preference votes for Dullas than for Ranil.
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However, if Ranil receives a sufficient number of first-preference votes, say over 100, he will need fewer second-preference votes than Dullas. The latter would have swept the election if and only if all non-SLPP and non-JVP players voted for him without abstaining or boycotting. As a result, he would need fewer second-preference votes than Dullas. Ranil would need more than 100 first preference votes to advance to the second round without needing as many as Dullas.
On paper, there are 115 SLPP members, 50 SJB members, 40 SLPP rebels from three groups, and three JVP members. Members of the minority party are further divided into three ethnic groups, each with its party values and ideologies.
Will the Protests Be Called Off?
Ranil Wickremesinghe’s victory is bad news for protesters who have been calling for all the Rajapaksas to resign for months. According to them, Ranil is nothing more than a Rajapaksa family pawn, a “Rajapaksa stooge” tasked with protecting the family’s interests from any future government’s criminal actions. This is the stance of a section of the “Aragalaya” struggle based on Colombo’s beachfront and elsewhere in the country.
A common misconception is that the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), a former “revolutionary” wing of the once-violent JVP that has since been mainstreamed to ensure that the “wishes of the people” are carried out precisely as intended. According to reports, it retained control of the presidential secretariat even after leaving the president’s official residence and the prime minister’s office.
The week before, armed forces foiled an attempt by protesters to “occupyParliamentnt. Instead, they marched through the streets of the nation’s capital to demonstrate their authority.
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Can People’s Power See the Light of Day?
Premakumar Gunaratnam, the leader of the FSP, has repeatedly referred to the “power of the people” as a means of achieving their goal outside of the constitutionally mandated means and procedures of parliament. According to him, the country’s people should decide on alternative solutions, such as a new constitution and accompanying policies. Then the nation’s constitutional leadership should implement those policies by the people’s proposal.
If taken at face value, the well-planned arson that destroyed the homes and properties of 78 SLPP leaders, from the Rajapaksas on down, across Sinhala South in just over an hour on May 9—just hours after Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as Prime Minister—begs the question. Fires raged throughout the Sinhala South region. It happened on the night of the arson. Arsonists set fire to Ranil’s Colombo home on July 9, killing him and injuring several others. This happened hours after Ranil took over as the country’s de facto leader after Gotabaya fled.
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What questions will be on the minds of MPs when they vote on Wednesday to choose a New President from among the three candidates, one of whom is also a candidate? Several threats have been made against Ranil Wickremesinghe, prompting the Speaker to seek police protection for individual MPs. However, the Speaker of the House, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, did not answer the question of how long.
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