UNP suffers humiliating defeat | Sunday Observer

UNP suffers humiliating defeat

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) which contested a General Election for the first time secured an unprecedented, landslide victory at the August 5 election indicating that the party is in a position to form a stable Government with a two-thirds majority.

The SLPP obtained 145 seats securing an overwhelming majority in 19 districts. This is the third consecutive electoral outing for the SLPP, having gained major victories at the February 2018 Local Government Elections and the November 2019 Presidential Election. The SJB (Samagi Jana Balawegaya) won a mere 54 seats including seven on the National List.

Another remarkable feature of the election result was that UNP leader and four-time Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was unseated for the first time since he entered Parliament in 1977 as he failed to win from the Colombo district and his party came fourth in most constituencies.

Wickremesinghe who polled a record 500,566 preferential votes at the 2015 parliamentary election from the Colombo district, lost his seat for the first time in his four-decade-long career. His record incidentally was broken by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa this year, polling 527,364 votes in the Kurunegala district.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday, August 6, said the SLPP has recorded a resounding victory at the General Election.

The President in a Twitter message expressed confidence that a strong Parliament can be established to make his vision for prosperity a reality with the outcome of 2020 General Election and make the people victorious.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first world leaders to congratulate Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on the outcome of the elections and said the two sides should work together to further advance all areas of bilateral cooperation and to take their special ties to ever newer heights.

Winning mentality

This year’s General Election began with a winning mentality within the SLPP which was overwhelmed by the tremendous victory of last year’s Presidential Election. In contrast, the UNP, Opposition party entered the 2020 polls with a defeatist mentality. It is also logical that this was due to the split in the party. Therefore, in comparison, the number of UNPers who refrained from casting their vote due to the split was also significant.

The United National Party (UNP) suffered the worst defeat in history, by securing only 249,435 votes (2.15 percent) islandwide. The UNP failed to secure a single seat in any of the 22 electoral districts and managed to collect only one National List seat under the proportional representation system.

This is the outcome of the infighting that went on between two factions. The Party which once had political glory as the oldest party in Sri Lanka was formed in 1946. This was also the fate of a political party that governed the country not more than 10 months ago.

They inherited this historic defeat due to the arrogance of UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and his close associates in the face of a continuous call from within the party and its grassroots demanding that party leadership be handed over to Sajith Premadasa. It is very evident that the UNP suffered this humiliating defeat due to the idiotic overconfidence of UNP leaders who believed that they could remain with the people being the so-called the Grand Old Party with its traditional elephant symbol.

Attributing its stunning routing at the parliamentary elections to internal and external challenges, the UNP accepted responsibility for its failures and shortcomings and vowed to restructure the party.

UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam requested party supporters to peacefully accept the outcome of the election. The UNP was unable to secure a single parliamentary seat at Wednesday’s poll, for the first time in the party’s near 74-year history.

The Marxist JVP despite winning only three seats compared to six in the previous election, retained its position as the third force in the country by pushing the former ruling party UNP to the fourth and in many areas to even fifth and sixth places.

In contrast, the Samagi Jana Balawega (SJB) led by Sajith Premadasa which contested for the first time as a political party secured 54 seats with 2,771,980 votes. The figures are a clear indication that the Sajith faction has taken away 90 percent of the UNP’s vote base. It’s like a Telephone literally knocked down an Elephant!

Those who remained with the UNP emblem were those who influenced the UNP leadership to separately contest the election under the UNP banner. UNP frontliners such as Ravi Karunanayake, Navin Dissanayake, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Vajira Abeywardena, Daya Gamage, Ruwan Wijewardena and Palitha Range Bandara were shockingly defeated.

At the gates of the UNP headquarters, Sirikotha, on Friday, August 7, SJB contestant Attorney-at-law Athula Ranagala told the media rather heatedly that the people should not be blamed for the failure of the UNP. “We don’t blame the people. All this happened because of our leader. He should be held responsible for everything that happened in the country. This situation has arisen today because of the conspiracies that have been going on for years with a gang of thugs,” Ranagala said.

In response to a reporter’s query whether Sirikotha would be raided, Ranagala added that there was no need to provoke the people by doing so, suggesting that the people had ended up telling Ranil Wickremesinghe to ‘go home’. Ranagala also said that he contested this election to oust Wickremesinghe.

Former Minister and UNP Galle district candidate Vajira Abeywardena told reporters despite the heavy defeat the UNP suffered in the election, no reorganisation of the UNP was needed at this time.

Abeywardene told the media in Galle, that his party will not be deterred by the defeat but will make it a launching pad to drive the party towards victory in future elections while rectifying mistakes. “The majority of the people in the country have given the SLPP a huge mandate. We wholeheartedly acknowledge that victory.” He said, “this is not the first time that the UNP has been defeated. We have faced defeats on various occasions in the past.”

Voters have voted to send 13 SLFP candidates to Parliament, despite a campaign by some of the SLPP frontliners to deny preference to SLFP candidates contesting from the SLPP. At the forefront are former President Maithripala Sirisena and Nimal Siripala de Silva. They took the lead in the Polonnaruwa and Badulla districts by obtaining over 100,000 preferential votes. The SLFP also contested the Jaffna district alone and won one constituency and won one seat in Jaffna.

Sarath Weerasekera

SLPP’s Sarath Weerasekera topped preferential votes in the Colombo District with 328,092 votes. Wimal Weerawansa came second with 267,084 votes while Udaya Gammanpila secured the third place with 136,771 preference votes.

The SLPP obtained 12 seats from the Colombo district while the SJB secured only six. SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa topped SJB’s preferential votes list in the Colombo district with 357,044 votes.

In a surprising turn of events, S.M. Marikkar came second on the list with 96,916 votes while Mujibur Rahuman came third. Patali Champika Ranawaka is the fifth on the list with 65,574 votes and received less votes than Harsha de Silva.

Close to one-third of former Parliamentarians, of the 225 MPs who represented the eighth Parliament will not be represented in the new Parliament. Many of them failed to secure their seats, while others had opted out of the election.

Nearly 66 former MPs have lost their parliamentary seats including some prominent members such as Ranil Wickremesinghe, Ravi Karunanayake, Daya Gamage, Navin Dissanayake, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Arjuna Ranatunga, Vajira Abeywardana, Ruwan Wijewardene, Sujeewa Senasinghe, Palitha Range Bandara, Chandrani Bandara, P. Harison, A.H.M. Fowzie and Vijayakala Maheswaran.

In the ruling party, the SLPP, former Parliamentarians such as Sumedha G. Jayasena, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, Thilanga Sumathipala, Ananda Aluthgamage, Lakshman Wasantha Perera, Sriyani Wijewickrama, Tharanath Basnayaka, T.B. Ekanayaka, Weerakumara Dissanayake and Dunesh Gankanda lost their seats.

The number of new Parliamentarians elected for the ninth Parliament is over 60. The highest number of six new MPs has been elected from the Gampaha district. Five from the Anuradhapura district and four from the Colombo and Nuwara Eliya districts.

Seven women MPs

Of the newly elected Parliamentarians, the highest number, 53 MPs, have been elected from the SLPP while four have been elected from the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB). In addition, five women politicians had been sent home by the voters while electing seven women politicians to the new Parliament. Three female representatives were elected from the Ratnapura district alone, Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Muditha Soyza from the SLPP and Thalatha Atukorale from the SJB.

The General Election has also witnessed three sets of father-son duo being elected to Parliament. From the SLPP, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his son Namal Rajapaksa and Chamal Rajapaksa and his son Shasheendra Rajapaksa were elected. The SLPP’s Janaka Bandara Tennakoon and his son Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon was the other set to be elected.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said the new Cabinet of Ministers would be set up with a group of talented Parliamentarians to drive the country forward on the path of development.

Addressing the Kandy Esala Perahera conclusion ceremony at President’s House, Kandy, he said that achieving development goals will not be difficult if bribery and corruption are eliminated.

President Rajapaksa said that he got an opportunity to travel around the country during the past month and meet people of different communities where he got an understanding of their grievances and needs. He said that among these issues were a land with clear deeds, a land fit for cultivation, facilities to construct a house, national schools for children’s education and access to drinking water. He would be committed to fulfill the people’s aspirations. He stressed that he would work hard so that the people will not need to raise these issues again.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has summoned the new Parliament to meet on August 20. The President has made this decision under the powers vested in him by the Constitution of Sri Lanka and the Parliamentary Election Act.

The Gazette Extraordinary notification announcing the summoning of the new Parliament was issued on August 3. Sri Lanka earlier planned to have elections on April 25 and Parliament was expected to meet on May 14. However, the Election Commission postponed the polls for August 5, on account of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Leader of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is due to be sworn in as the Prime Minister of the new SLPP Government at 8.30 a.m. today, August 9. The swearing in ceremony will be held at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara.

Rajapaksa will have the opportunity to serve as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka for the fourth time. Premier Rajapaksa’s party scored a landslide victory securing 145 seats.

Speaking to the media after casting his vote at the polling booth at D.A. Rajapaksa College, Medamulana the Premier said, “I am confident that a two-thirds majority will be gained given how things are going. Otherwise, we know how to get two-thirds majority.”

In response to the queries by the media, the Prime Minister said those who understood the value of their ballot were enthusiastic to cast their votes. He added that there is a need to set up a Government with a two-thirds majority.

Premier Rajapaksa told reporters there is a program presented by the President for which a 6.9 million mandate was given. We will be implementing that program in Parliament. Therefore, nothing new will be implemented, but the program for which the President was voted into power.”