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Thursday, 27 January 2011






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Convincing mandate quashed regime change bid

Spotlight falls back on the election of 2010 and the convincing mandate won by President Mahinda Rajapaksa with over a 1.5 million vote margin. The challenger Sarath Fonseka failed far short of securing a majority to cause the promised regime change. The reasons are discernible loud and clear now than during the raucous campaign stretch.

Opposition miscalculations

*Waiting for Ranil to assume leadership

*Ranil’s legendary anti-war bias

*Underestimating the people’s aspirations

*Ranil’s inability to take the President head on

*Warped national security credentials

*Two Opposition approaches brought disastrous results

*Tiger Diaspora support added to Opposition woes

*Attitude of certain international powers compounded situation

*Non-cohesive coalition leadership

President Mahinda Rajapaksa

That said the Opposition campaign was surprisingly driven by a conflicting duality that eroded Fonseka’s electability as analysed below:

The retired Commander was presented as the sole LTTE avenger; with no nonsense storm the Bastille look bent on ousting a popular wartime President with proven political mastery. Strangely, Fonseka simultaneously declared that he would head an interim Government if victorious, waiting for Ranil Wickremesinghe to emerge as leader at a General Election later.

Fatal coalition blunder

Waiting for Ranil to eventually assume leadership became a fatal coalition blunder. That flew in the face of the very reason to showcase Fonseka: the surfeit of Tiger war heroism he claimed as his trump card. It also implied either Fonseka’s lack of readiness and unsuitability or both.

Worst still, Ranil’s anti-war bias had become legendary, spawning a nagging campaign issue for Fonseka. Thus the coalition had totally under-estimated that for most Sri Lankans military approach had become the only viable option in the face of the Tiger menace and was happy the way peace was won with honour.

Fallout calamitous

Critically, election revealed that await Ranil-dichotomy was convoluted and unachievable: a pretext to oust a popular leader who had won laurels prosecuting the war along with Defence Secretary, the Army, Navy and the Air Force resolutely defending the country.

Ranil’s inability or unwillingness to take the President head on had its dire repercussions plus his warped national security credentials led to the search for an outsider. That failed to be a winning proposition - the voting confirmed it. The fallout from the two approaches at odds with each other was calamitous as reflected in the final low vote tally Fonseka received in the predominant majority community areas except selected precincts in Colombo, Kandy and Galle.

Tiger Diaspora’s elation at the turn of events and their preference for the Commander over the Commander-in-Chief added to Fonseka’s woes. Voters tend to reject a “defeat the incumbent no matter what” cry than a well-canvassed mandate.

Worse still, the international powers who had thrown a lifeline to the vanishing Tiger leadership also mouthed the same repellent regime change mantra uttered by the Tiger Diaspora, Ranil and the candidate in unison. The irony was beyond reprieve.

Fonseka spiraled into irrelevancy

The coalition leaders could not avert the domino effects of what had arisen in the course of the campaign. The question how Fonseka spiraled into irrelevancy-looking either here or there - cannot be avoided.

The coalition leaders also failed to shield Fonseka from harsh media exposure. His Press briefings and interviews needed damage control or retractions. Fonseka’s stage presence seemed out of sync at times.

He perhaps had wished to bring war dynamics to politics as an equally worthwhile quest. That transition got botched due to the non-cohesive coalition leadership and their breeding a hybrid out of the war and anti-war postures of coalition leadership.

Fonseka’s pursuit of politics was his right. He perhaps was oblivious that a thin line separated the temperament of a promising politician and a military retiree who could use, as they say in metaphysics, a little help.

Politicians often risk the danger of being caricatured unless well endowed with geniality.

That said, the fundamental reasoning explained above remained intact. The finger pointing, points-scoring and squabbling are fading away fast as I write.



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