National Sections of the L5I:

2010 Sri Lanka elections: There is no majority mandate for the government

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Government claims to have won an increased mandate in the parliamentary elections are untrue. Even on the basis of the official results, the government only achieved a bare majority, just 52% of the total vote. In the Presidential election, Mahinda Rajapakse gained 58% so there can be no talk of an increased mandate. On the contrary, in some districts the vote for the government alliance was reduced by 32.5%. If we compare the actual voting figures for the two elections we can see that they lost 1,100,000 votes. These figures do not support the scale of the victory that the government has claimed.

What is worse, the election itself was not a fair contest. The government used official administration personnel and resources to support its campaign on a scale never before seen. The Electoral Commissioner did not have a genuine mandate to oversee a fair election, he was more like a puppet of the government. The police used their powers systematically against opposition parties but made no response to complaints about government candidates. The governing alliance used the officially controlled media as if they were their own property. In addition, the police used their powers to prevent the opening of electoral offices for the opposition parties but did not stop the opening of offices for the governing alliance. In this context, it is clear that electors were not genuinely able to exercise their full rights. The opposition UNP and the Fonseka-JVP alliance were not able to mount an effective campaign against the advantages of the government.

The Tamil people did not vote in this election

In both the Presidential and the Parliamentary elections, some 75% of the Tamil speaking population did not vote. In the Jaffna district, although 721,000 people are registered, only 168,000 actually voted. That means that 80% of the Tamil speaking population there did not vote. By comparison with the last Parliamentary election, the Tamil National Alliance lost seats. For example, in the Northeast district they lost 8 of their 20 seats. The pro-government "Tamil Party" led by Douglas Davenanda won 5 seats. But the tens of thousands of Tamil still confined in concentration camps were not able to vote. The danger now is that the government will claim a mandate for a Sinhala-Buddhist regime across the whole country.

In the south of the country there is no popular mandate for the government

The governing party and its candidates used the war against the Tamils to accumulate a huge amount of money which they then used during the election. It is clear that much of this money came from illegal practices and deals and that it has now been used to swing the election. No doubt the government will look after these supporters now they have secured its victory. We can safely predict that the future will reveal just how ugly the regime of Mahindra Rajapakse really is.

The collapse of the UNP

The scale of the defeat of the UNP becomes clear if we look at past history. Although the UNP won a total of 46 seats, they were unable to win any district outright. If the electoral system were genuinely proportionate they would not have won more than two or three seats. Together JVP and UNP lost 1,500,000 votes by comparison with the previous election. In the Presidential election, Fonseka won in the plantation districts and in the North and East but in these elections they lost these districts. Even in terms of bourgeois democratic politics, they did not offer any solutions to the major problems facing the people and that is why they lost support. Even when they tried to gain support by copying Rajapakse’s chauvinist ideas, this did not bring them any support.

The JVP, from crisis to crisis

In January 2010 we wrote in our paper, Asani, that, whether or not Fonseka was successful, the JVP would be forced into crisis. Today, we can see from the results in the election what has happened to the JVP. Their strategy of supporting Rajapakse’s war against the Tamils has backfired on them. They won only five seats as compared to 40 seats when they were in coalition with Rajapakse. Even those five seats were the result of sympathetic support for Fonseka. It is clear that the JVP has lost much of its support from the youth and the farmers to Rajapakse. In the future it is possible that their more radical supporters will draw completely the wrong conclusion from this. Instead of breaking away from Sinhala chauvinism they may return to the “guerrillaism” of 1971. This shows the inability of the JVP's politics to develop a strategy for gaining power.

For an independent left leadership against the bourgeois opposition

The Left Liberation Front (LLF) the electoral alliance between the Socialist Party of Sri Lanka (SPSL) the Left Front (LF) and the Tamil Liberation Alliance (TLA) led by Sivajilingham, was not able to win widespread support in this election. The precise figures have not yet been announced by the electoral commission because elections are to be re-run in two districts. Nonetheless, it is clear that the overall vote was low, probably no more than 4000 votes nationally. Within the alliance the three main groupings each stood on their own programmes, the SPSL on a programme of support for a workers’ and peasants’ government and recognition of the right to self-determination of the Tamil people, whilst the candidates of the LF and the TLA also defended the rights of Tamils, they limited themselves to social democratic demands. Inevitably, this weakened the impact of the LLF across the country as it did not offer a consistent programme in all areas. Nonetheless, participation in the LLF allowed the SPSL to campaign for its full programme in two districts, Ratnapura and Hambantota, thereby raising its public profile and making a range of new contacts and supporters.

The SPSL, and all working class organisations, will face big tasks in the future because the government will be unable to resolve any of the burning problems facing the country especially the national question and the rising cost of living. Faced with the crisis of globalisation and its economic consequences, the government will be unable to solve its crisis, those who have placed great expectations in the government will be disappointed. The task of the SPSL is to intervene into the struggles of the working-class masses to argue for revolutionary answers to this crisis.

As a socialist party we are committed to calling for discussions with the leaders of the other working-class and left organisations with the intention of building a new party of the working-class. We continue to believe that such a party can be built in the struggles that face us. We call on all socialists and working class activists, not only within the Left Liberation Front but in the broader working class movement, to work towards the building of such a party, based on a clear, anti-capitalist programme. Our programme is not designed to win easy votes in an election, it is a strategy for the overthrow of capitalism and the building of socialism and it is this programme that we will fight for in the struggles to come:

Repeal the Emergency Powers Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, for the restoration of full democratic rights to all media.

Stop the abductions and killings by government-backed death squads. For a workers' inquiry into all disappearances and abductions.

Withdraw all military forces from the Tamil lands, full freedom of movement for all refugees currently held in camps, resettlement of all Tamil communities under the administration of elected workers' and farmers' councils. Resolve the national question by recognising the right of self-determination of the Tamil people. For an emergency programme of reconstruction in the war zones under the democratic control of the communities involved. For the restoration of full trade union rights in the former war zones.

Fully equal status for the Tamil and Sinhala languages, full citizenship rights for plantation workers. For a programme of construction of housing, schools and infrastructure in the plantation settlements, under the control of the communities themselves.

For price controls on everyday necessities, for a sliding scale of wages to protect income against inflation as calculated by the workers' own organisations. Recognition of full citizenship and civil rights for all communities and equal access to all public amenities, irrespective of language, ethnicity or creed. Tax the rich and the big corporations to fund the extension of health, education, housing and transport services under workers' control. Nationalise the assets of the multinational corporations and impose controls on the transfer of funds out of the country. Coordinate the struggles of the workers and the oppressed through the building of workers' and farmers' councils.

For a workers' and farmers' government responsible to a national congress of workers' and farmers' councils.

For a new workers’ party of Sri Lanka, committed to the overthrow of capitalism and the building of socialism and the building of the Fifth International as a World Party of Socialist Revolution.