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Sunday, 16 October 2011

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UNP’s eroding vote base:

Masses reiterate confidence in UPFA at LG polls

Today, October 16, will be marked as one of the greatest days in Sri Lanka’s Local Government history as the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), after yet another landslide victory at the third phase of the Local Government election held this year, is ready for another march towards the development of almost all major cities in the country.


Danasiri Amarathunga

Sixteen Mayors elected from the UPFA and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) for 16 Municipal Councils across the country, and six Chairmen elected to five Pradeshiya Sabhas and one Urban Council at the third and final phase of the Local Government election on October 8, are scheduled to take their oaths before President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees this morning.

They may resolve to take all major cities towards prosperity when Sri Lanka is striving to be the Wonder of Asia, the slogan it adopted after emerging victorious in its battle against terror in 2009, brushing aside one of the major obstacles that stood in its path to become a prosperous nation in Asia.

It is not only development that may be the prime focus, when the Heads of these Local Government bodies take their oaths before the President. They may also resolve to stand firm against the gun culture which has developed in this country over the past three decades.

They will also resolve to stand firmly for a violence-free electoral process in the country as this so-called electoral process claimed the life of yet another comrade of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, who toiled his blood and sweat to bring his party to the fore.

The unfortunate death of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, in a clash among groups of the same political party, added a black mark to the country’s electoral process. It was criticised by each and every political party, but without any firm action towards changing the situation.

Signs have now emerged that all political parties are determined to put an end to this system as a mark of respect for Premachandra who had to sacrifice his life for this vicious electoral system in his own constituency.


Prasanna Solangaarachchi

Another victim

A few years ago, Nalanda Ellawala, a young and promising MP from the Ratnapura district, sacrificed his life on the nomination date for the Local Government election in 1997, a result of inter-party violence.

Therefore, it is the fervent wish of the nation to get rid of this vicious electoral process when the country is resolving to reach new vistas in development after getting almost 80 percent of the Local Government bodies to work under a common program initiated by the UPFA.

The UPFA further strengthened its political power over the Local Government bodies at the third and final phase of the LG elections by securing 21 Local Government bodies out of the 23 to which elections were held on October 8. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, which works under a common agenda with the Government, secured the Kalmunai Municipal Council in the East.

The only Local Government body the UPFA could not win at the final phase of the LG elections was the Colombo Municipal Council, the largest Local Government body in the country.

The UPFA won 205 out of 234 LG bodies at the elections on March 17, and at the second phase polls on July 23 it won 45 out of 65 LG bodies. The UPFA has secured 271 Councils out of 322 that went to the polls in 2011. This includes the two LG bodies Akkaraipattu Pradeshiya Sabha and Akkaraipattu Municipal Council won by the National Congress contesting along with the UPFA in the Ampara district and Pallepola Pradeshiya Sabha won by an independent group backed by the UPFA.

At the end of the third phase of the LG elections, the main Opposition, the United National Party (UNP) was reduced to a third force in national politics in terms of the number of Local Government bodies under its fold; it had secured power at only 10 Local Government bodies out of 322.

The Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi and the Tamil United Liberation Front had secured 32 Local Government bodies out of 322, despite fielding candidates only in the North and the East.


A.J.M. Muzammil

Therefore, political analysts has observed this as the worst defeat by the UNP in the LG election history of the country. It had secured only three LG bodies in the Kandy district, two each in Colombo and Badulla and one each in Ampara, Kalutara and Kurunegala districts. But it still remains the second political force with regard to its vote base despite failing to secure a large number of Local Government bodies.

Many challenges

Compared to the 2006 Local Government election, which was held under different circumstances with the UPFA Government being confronted by many challenges, the urban voters has shown a major shift towards the UPFA at this Local Government election. It shows that over the past few years, the UPFA has managed to convince the entire population that they are capable of catering to any community in the country.

Even though the UPFA failed to secure a majority in the Local Government bodies in the North, the Government could ensure that democracy prevailed in the North and the East too, enabling the public there to elect people of their choice to run the Local Government bodies.

Therefore, though the LG elections were held in three different stages under different circumstances, they reflect three different opinions; the general opinion of the country, the Tamil opinion and the opinion of the urban population. But in all three stages, the UPFA Government emerged the leading political force in the country, increasing its popularity among the remote, rural and urban population in the country.

The only victory the UNP, the main Opposition, can boast of is at the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) that too with a thin margin, 24 seats out of 53. The percentage of votes they could secure was 43.01, somewhat similar to the percentage of votes the UNP-backed Independent Group III had obtained at the 2006 LG polls.

An independent group led by Uvais Mohammed, a three-wheeler driver, won 23 seats at the last LG election in 2006 for the Colombo Municipal Council. It contested under the spectacle symbol with the support of the UNP whose nomination list was rejected.


Mahendra Ratwatte

Compared to the percentage it had obtained at the 2002 LG polls, this is a major setback for the UNP as Colombo is the only remaining bastion of the party.

According to political observers, the UNP emerged victorious, not due to party politics, but as a result of the majority Muslim community in the Colombo city voting for a Muslim candidate at the election.

A.J.M. Muzammil, the UNP Mayoral candidate, secured 55,448 preferential votes against his main rival, Milinda Moragoda from the UPFA.

Biggest income generator

So, once again, the UNP would take one of the biggest income-generating LG bodies in the country into their hands. The entire country is looking at them to see how they will develop the commercial capital of the country to reflect the fast economic growth in other parts of the country.

The UPFA secured 77,089 votes (32.53 percent) to elect 16 members to the CMC. In 2006, when Vasudeva Nanayakkara contested as the CMC Mayoral candidate, the UPFA secured only 57,158 votes (27.85 percent). As the People’s Alliance in 2002 it secured only 38,002 votes (16.06 percent). This clearly shows that the UNP vote base in Colombo is fast deteriorating, similar to other parts of the country.

From the UPFA list, Milinda Moragoda became first, securing 32,103 votes with one time Deputy Mayor of Colombo Azath Sally coming second with 10,350 votes. Singer-turned-politician Madumadawa Aravinda secured a seat in the Council with 5,405 votes while M. Muzammil also made his way in to the Council, securing 5,191 votes.

The JVP could secure only one seat in the Council.

One main feature in the CMC is that though the UNP secured power in the Council, the other parties - the UPFA (16), DPF (6), SLMC (2) and DUA (2) - in the Opposition enjoy the majority in the Council.

Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia, the second bastion of the UNP, fell into UPFA hands this time with the UPFA winning the Council with a majority of 8,730 votes.


Janaka Ranawaka

The UPFA secured 16 seats out of the 29 after obtaining 39,812 votes. The UNP secured only 31,082 votes.

The UPFA vote base in Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia has increased almost 15 percent compared to the 2006 LG election when the UPFA obtained only 26,149 votes.The one-time UNP strongman and former Mayor and Deputy Mayor Danasiri Amarathunga came first in the UPFA preferential votes list, securing 25,768 preferential votes. Former Opposition Leader of the Council Kesaralal Gunasekara obtained 12,947 preferences to emerge second in the UPFA list.

Former Mayor of Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia and UNP frontliner Sunethra Ranasinghe obtained 15,660 preferences. Wickremabahu Karunaratne, who had always contested the elections in Colombo, this time contested from Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia from the Democratic People’s Front and made his entry into the council, securing 2,171 preferential votes.

Another significant victory for the UPFA was the securing of the Kandy and Nuwara Eliya Municipal Councils, two cities which are in the main agenda of the Government development drive to attract more tourists to the country. The two municipal councils were administered by the UNP for the past few decades.

Kandy and Nuwara Eliya

The UPFA reported a close win over the UNP, securing 13 seats in the Kandy Municipal Council after obtaining 23,189 votes against 20,087 votes obtained by the UNP. Mahendra Ratwatte came first in the UPFA list with 6,948 preferences.

The UNP Mayoral candidate and one time Diyawadana Nilame of the Sri Dalada Maligawa Neranjan Wijeyeratne secured 5,290 preferences. The vote base of the UPFA has increased from 15,164 (36.81 percent) at the 2006 LG polls to 23,189 (49.78 percent).

In the Nuwara Eliya Municipal Council, the UPFA secured six seats against three seats by the UNP with 6,225 votes. The UPFA vote base has more than doubled compared to the 2006 LG polls when the UPFA obtained only 3,006 votes and sent three members to the Council.

Mahinda Kumara came first in the UPFA preferential votes list with 5,521 preferences to become Mayor-elect of the Nuwara Eliya MC.

In the Colombo district, the UPFA secured the Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte and Moratuwa Municipal Councils. In the Kotte MC, the UPFA had an easy win, securing 13 of the 20 seats, obtaining 26,723 votes against 10,830 votes for the UNP. Janaka Ranawaka, the former Deputy Mayor of the Kotte MC came first in the UPFA list, obtaining 16,262 preferences. Dhanushka Kushan Silva, the son of late Chandra Silva and a former Mayoress secured 4,756 votes.

The Kolonnawa Urban Council, which was administered by the UNP, also fell to the UPFA this time with a thin margin of 606 votes with six seats in the Council. The UPFA secured 11,303 votes against the 10,667 votes of the UNP.

The highest percentage for the UPFA at the third phase of LG elections came from the Kotikawatta-Mulleriyawa Pradeshiya Sabha, with a 25,729 margin - 37,998 votes against 12,269 votes for the UNP. The percentage of votes obtained by the UPFA in Kotikawatta-Mulleriyawa PS is 73.66 percent.

The highest percentage of preferential votes obtained at this LG election was also recorded from this PS. Prasanna Wimal Gunasinghe Solanga, better known as Prasanna Solangaarachchi, obtained 42,322 preferential votes to become Chairman-elect of the Pradeshiya Sabha. The preferential votes he obtained at the election exceeded the total votes cast for the UPFA as one voter can cast three preferential votes to the same candidate at the Local Government elections.

Highest percentage

The highest percentage of votes for the UPFA at the third and final phase of the Local Government elections came from the Gampaha Municipal Council; 74.08 percent at the total votes - 22,679 votes against the 6,478 votes for the UNP.

The Gampaha MC was also earlier controlled by the UNP in the absence of the UPFA over the rejection of its nomination list in 2006. In the Gampaha MC the UPFA has won 14 seats for the UNP’s three seats.

The UPFA also had an easy win at the Negombo Municipal Council, securing 16 seats against the nine seats secured by the UNP.

Due to a policy decision by the UPFA leadership, the person who obtained the highest preferential votes in the Negombo MC will not be appointed Mayor.

Accordingly, Dayan Lanza Moses who obtained 15,460 preferences in the Negombo MC will not be appointed Mayor since his brother Nimal Lanza holds a Ministerial portfolio in the Western Provincial Council.

Eranga Chanaka Senanayaka (23,731 votes) is scheduled to be appointed Mayor of the Gampaha Municipal Council.

However, Lakshman Gunawardena who emerged second in the UPFA list, obtaining 8,677 votes, will not be appointed Deputy Mayor as his brother Sarana Gunawardena is a Deputy Minister in the Government.

In the Hambantota district, the constituency of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the UPFA had an easy win despite the challenge posed to the UPFA by UNP Co-Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa.

In the Hambantota MC, the UPFA won eight seats, obtaining 6,183 votes against the four seats secured by the UNP with 4,742 votes.The Suriyaweva Pradeshiya Sabha was also won by the UPFA, having secured four seats against one member elected from the UNP. It also had an easy win at the Hambantota PS, having secured six seats against one seat secured by the UNP.

The defeat of the UNP in Gampaha and Hambantota was significant as the UNP is striving to bring either Sajith Premadasa or Karu Jayasuriya to the leadership of the UNP, challenging the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe. But it was evident that the problem was not the leadership; the party itself suffers without a clear direction in its political march.

The victory of the UPFA at the Galle and Matara Municipal Councils was also an easy one, with a clear majority in both Councils. In the Galle MC, the UPFA had 11 seats and the UNP seven seats.

In the Matara MC, the UPFA had nine seats and the UNP five seats. In Galle Methsiri de Silva, who obtained 10,700 preferential votes, would become Mayor.

The UPFA’s victory at Moratuwa, Matale, Ratnapura, Kurunegala, Anuradhapura and Badulla also gave it confidence to carry forward its plan to develop all major cities under one agenda.

Whatever the politics and whatever political party in controls, all Local Government bodies to which elections were held this year have one aim. To serve the people who had voted and not voted for them and work for their betterment, thus contributing towards the common goal of taking the country towards prosperity.

That is what all newly elected members would initiate today after taking oaths before President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

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