The pathetic showing by political
parties such as the JVP and the CWC at the just concluded
Provincial Poll is clear sign that the electorate at large has
embraced the two party system.
Both these parties were much more than fringe parties in
contemporary politics and more often than not formed the prop
that enabled either the UNP or SLFP/PA to form Governments.
Had not Thondaman's CWC supported, Prime Minister Premadasa
would have failed in his Presidential bid in 1988 (The CWC
claimed to have had a bloc vote of 500,000 at the time.
Premadasa won by margin of 250,000).
Similarly the JVP sided with Chandrika Kumaratunga in 2004 to
form a UPFA Government. This electoral muscle provided by
minority parties gave them ample leverage and bargaining power
This sometimes put Governments into embarrassing and
difficult positions. It also entailed a drain on State resources
to accommodate their demands.
It was President Mahinda Rajapaksa who dared to break this
stranglehold when he refused to accommodate certain JVP demands
in return for the party's support at the 2006 local Government
The humiliating defeat the party suffered at that poll
exposed the JVP's real electoral strength which eventually led
to its split. The complete rout suffered by these two parties at
last week's poll is a clear indication that voters of fringe
parties are increasingly joining the two major parties.
Most marked is the gravitation of CWC voters who were being
sort of regimented to vote for the party. Now that the
traditional Left parties have all coalesced with the Government
and some minority parties are with the main Opposition the day
may not be long when the two party system will once again hold
sway in Lankan politics.
The country had been accustomed to the two party system since
Independence. Although parties such as the LSSP and CP held sway
from some time, infighting among stalwarts on ideological lines
failed to obtain for them any electoral gains.
Into the breach arrived S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike who along with
D.A. Rajapaksa formed the SLFP. It (SLFP) became the second
largest party and was eventually able to capture power in the
historic victory in 1956. Following the demise of Bandaranaike
there was dissension within SLFP ranks and the UNP were able to
seize power in the March election of 1960.
But later State power went into the hands of the SLFP at the
July elections in the same year. Since then it had been UNP and
SLFP led coalitions that ruled the country, small parties being
mere appendages to the main parties.
The only exception is when the TULF came to the forefront
following the 1977 UNP avalanche, as the main opposition party,
when the SLFP was reduced to a mere eight seats. But this was
due to an abberation in the electoral landscape as the TULF
secured all its 30 odd seats from a contiguous Tamil electorate
in the North and the East.
The status quo returned after the exit of the TULF from
Parliament following the adoption of the Sixth Amendment to the
Constitution. Presently there is minority representation in the
form of the CWC, UPF, EPDP the SLMC and their splinter groups
and also the JHU.
These parties are either aligned with the UPFA or the UNP.
They have no individual clout in the legislature as say the
Indian Communist party which had the strength and stature to
pull out support to the Congress party following India's nuclear
deal with the USA.
Whatever power that is being wielded by the minority parties
today is thanks to the PR system. It has allowed them unlimited
bargaining power leading to unstable Governments and horse
deals. It is no secret how some of these minority parties not
only make unreasonable demands but also extend their influence
to get their nominees plum appointments in the Government
especially the foreign service.
It is in this context that the Government should take steps
to speedily implement the new electoral reforms proposed by
Minister Dinesh Gunawardena now that the two party system is
firmly becoming entrenched. It could also help eliminate
questionable characters from entering Parliament.
The proposed reforms will also reduce the huge expenditure
incurred on election campaigns under PR while bringing the
people closer to their elected representatives. This is not to
decry minority parties and their representation.
A special mechanism should be evolved to accommodate minority
interests. But as the trend shows minority voters are
increasingly gravitating towards the two major parties. This
will compel elected Governments to assume direct responsibility
over these segments rather than through the representatives of
these parties. Above all it bodes well for national unity and