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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2783

Voting for a Third Option? Things to consider before you waste your vote this time

By Sanjaya M Arachchige

Everyone who contemplates voting for anybody other than Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sajith Premadasa knows that their candidate has no chance of winning. Among these voters, there is always a trifling percentage of crackbrains, who do this purely out of selfishness. They are unable to change, and the world is no fun without them. But there is a sizable group of rational people who waste their vote thinking that they are doing the right thing for themselves and the others. This is an attempt to engage this select group of people in a train of thought that may lead them to reconsider their decision.

Silent Majority

The second group of people mentioned above is a subset of a much larger and significant group of voters that the writer prefers to call "the silent majority of Sri Lanka." The members of the silent majority typically not to be seen at campaign rallies, and they do not depend on local politicians for survival. Yet, they hold a genuine interest in national politics – an interest different from partisan, "my side is always right, your side is always wrong politics". The members of this community are cosmopolitan but very diverse in their educational and social backgrounds. What binds them together is their crystal-clear sense of right and wrong. Their action is guided by conscience than anything else. Does this sound like you? Please keep on reading because even Homer sometimes nods.

Valid Vacillation

In the writer's point of view, there is a general agreement in the silent majority on whom to vote for at the coming presidential election. The decision is governed by concerns on deteriorating national security, the downfall of the economy, and increasing political instability in the country under the incumbent government. Yet, vacillation persists in them due to valid reasons. The unpleasant memories of gaffe-strewn MR government are still fresh in their minds, and the misplaced trust on the purported "good governance" government has cost them dearly. In this milieu, a sizable number of voters may decide to vote for a third option candidate out of disgruntlement – to show their disgust to all corrupted politicians. But the golden question is – whether it is the right thing to do at this crucial moment? Let us dive deep into the facts using the framework suggested below – as deterrence against emotions.

Endorsement Dilemma<.b>

A growing desire for a new brand of political leadership is prevalent among Sri Lankan voters for some time, perhaps as a fruit of post-war retrospective wisdom. Both Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sajith Premadasa were chosen by their respective political parties as a response to this public hankering. This need is also identified by foreign-funded NGO's and even by smart individuals like "Naga" as an opportunity to fulfill their self-serving agendas. Not surprisingly, we have the highest number of candidates contesting in a presidential election ever in history. With no chance of winning, they are there for one reason- that is for themselves, fishing for disgruntle voters to put a cross against their names.

If you are not familiar with the industry of politics, the chances are that you may wonder what someone can gain by contesting for a presidential election with absolutely no chance of winning. There are a multitude of advantages, too many to mention here, but here are few. It is an opportunity to become a national politician in the eyes of foreign embassies and other organizations. You can be the national representative of a niche political ideology. You can earn a lot of money, overseas tours, and other benefits from various foreign NGOs for being their puppet candidate. It will certainly look good on your resume, a feather in your cap. One thing is sure, these alternative candidates not wasting their 75000 rupees, but you will be wasting your valuable vote- your opportunity to decide your own future if you fall for them.

Before casting your vote for such a candidate, make sure you are genuinely endorsing the candidate and not doing it as an act of vengeance against the mainstream politics. If you do so, you are exposing you and the country to great danger.

The danger

If you pay close attention to media, on things happening locally and internationally, you can easily detect the danger referred here. It would be hard not to notice that something is not right. There are signs of mass insanity, loss of conscience, and wisdom. But if you look closer, you may notice that it is not the masses that are gone insane. Instead, it is a mad and noisy minority being portrayed as the masses. The danger we are facing today is the existence of a muted center dominated by a vocal extreme in all issues of importance. From climate change to LGBTQ rights, marijuana to abortions, human rights to the right to life, name any issue in the world, you will see only the extremists running the show. Anyone with moderate, centrist views would be quickly silenced or treated as an enemy. The very same problem is plaguing party politics in many democracies, including ours.

Let us look at the facts in our context. Sajith Premadasa is surrounded by Tamil racists and radical Islamic fundamentalists. Thanks to the abysmal performance of the UNP led government, Mr. Premadasa cannot even dream of surviving in this presidential race without succumbing to the vile demands of the extremists. Likewise, all influential anti-Sri Lankan puppets sponsored by foreign-funded NGO's now publicly stand with Mr. Premadasa. Undoubtedly, TNA, Hakeem, Bathiudeen, and the NGO lot are there for a quid pro quo.

On the other hand, Gotabaya Rajapaksa's side also has some influential jingoists, tin foil hats, and Sinhala chauvinists acting in the pretext of patriots. Compared to Mr. Premadasa's side, the unsavory factions of Mr. Rajapaksa's party have much less power due to their negligible voter bases. Still, this lunatic fringe can obstruct Gotabaya Rajapaksa from reaching his fullest potential as a leader for the whole nation.

The important and solacing reality for us to apprehend is that the extremist factions are not as powerful as they want us to believe. They are like parasites, only survive in an election when feeding on a mainstream political party. Parties like TNA and SLMC may still exercise some influence at a general election as single parties, but at a presidential election, they will be reduced to nothing. For those BBS types, there is absolutely no chance at any election if contested alone. Records will prove the fact. All these extremists are made powerful not by the little niche they represent, but by a vast majority of good people who oppose extremism but cannot make their minds to support a good mainstream leader.

The bitter truth is when people shun from mainstream politics; they must live under a government, controlled not by the real majority but by a participating majority. If you feel like you still want to waste your vote, make sure that you have no problem when extremists run amok in the next government.

Revisit your Utopia

If you are interested in policy politics, it is quite natural to desire a utopia of some format – an ideal state for a country, in the back of your mind. This is a trend particularly dominant with young educated people. But, if this utopia is created on baseless beliefs on foreign countries, leaders, and cultures it is advisable and apropos do a fact check, because your untenable expectations can bar you from doing the right thing when it is most needed.

For instance, there are pictures on Facebook showing Vladimir Putin pumping gas to a car, Barak Obama's daughter working at a bakery, and some other foreign leader riding a bicycle to the office. These are just one-off public stunts, nothing more than Sajith Premadasa playing hardball cricket while wearing slippers. If your utopia is based on such beliefs, you are mistaken. You can clear your doubts with ten-minutes of internet research with the right keywords.

Also, your utopian benchmarks may need a compatible check with the culture that we are all part of. You did not see Donald Trump or Barak Obama worshiping Tirupati temple before an election. You do not see bovine astrologers eating valuable airtime in national TV channels foretelling your destiny in any developed country. Our culture is different. It is unrealistic to try filling the prevailing leadership void with an image of a foreign leader without considering the cultural concerns.

If we are not there yet, our leaders are not there too. But it is not an excuse for us to give up our attempt to get there. Like all other nations, we will have to get there one step at a time. To maintain the momentum in the right direction, we must support the most favorable leader available, the one who can carry the burden of expectation. There is only one proven one out there if you choose to be objective in your reasoning.

The right end of the stick

All major political parties in Sri Lanka today represent a diffused bundle of competing ideologies. One cannot even tell whether a party is more socialist or capitalist anymore.

We even have a Marxist party allegedly receiving campaign funds from the United States Embassy. Though there is no way to verify the speculations, the recent behavior of JVP shows clear gravitation towards the new liberal socialism now trending in the United States - a striking departure from its traditional Marxist revolutionism. The party once strived to be the sole "deshapremi" force in the country now acts more like an NGO of sold-out souls. JVP has always been a puppet party of foreign interlopers either from the East or West throughout its blood-stained history. This time its assigned role is to serve as the red herring to prevent disgruntle UNPers from voting for Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Then we have UNP, the political party formed by local apostles of free-market capitalism now promising all-out welfare state. The horrendous tax policy enacted by the UNP during the last four years has destroyed its reputation as the "business friendly" political party. Its blatant disregard for national security marred with its proven incompetence in the domain has caused the party's traditionally right-wing core to look for alternatives. The UNP is no longer represent the brand of DS, John Kotelawala, or JR anymore. Rather it has reduced to an unholy union of far-left liberals and confused capitalists suffering from some identity conflict.

The next option, we have brand-new SLPP backing Gotabaya Rajapaksa. It has many influential political figures, including the party leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, who like to identify themselves as "left-wingers" (Vamanshika) or "progressives" (Pragathisheeli). It is doubtful whether single SLPP leaders have anything to do with those ideologies, but clearly, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has no bearing in them.

His economic policies promote free-market capitalism while ensuring solid protection for the needy; he believes in a meritocracy; his policies are more pragmatic than idealistic; he gives prominence to national security and conserving national identity. His catchphrases are abundant with keywords such as "productivity", "efficiency", "opportunity", "discipline", "security", "values", "prosperity", "development" and alike. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a perfect fit for a center-right politician; a school thought extremely popular in developed countries.

Perhaps the best way for us to choose the right candidate without succumbing to ancestral political loyalties is to clarify our inclination in the political spectrum. The spectrum referred here is the one that lies between far-left and far-right ideologies. And you do not have to be a pundit in political ideologies to do that.

Perhaps answering a few simple questions would do.

• Do you value individual freedom, your freedom to engage in enterprise, be affluent, and successful through your merit? If "yes" you place yourself in the right of the spectrum.

• You support free education and free healthcare but still believe that private universities and hospitals will provide more opportunities for the public? If "yes," you come close to the center-right.

• You believe national security is paramount for the stability of the nation, believes in a unitary state, but still, believe that lot to be done to achieve national reconciliation.

For example, if you are Sinhalese, you do not go berserk when you see street signs in Tamil speaking areas give prominence to the Tamil language, or if you are Tamil, you do not think that you should live in an ethnically pure Tamil homeland. If you are a Muslim, you are opposed Arabization of your community. If "yes," you solidify your position in the center-right.

If you believe in a welfare state, with a colossal government focusing mainly on managing welfare projects than promoting economic development, you place yourself in the center-left. If you believe in government-controlled resources and place no value in the culture, you are going towards far-left. If you think your race or religion must make you superior to the others, and you disregard the existence of needy communities, you are going towards far-right.

Once you know your stand, it will not be difficult to decide on the right course of action currently available to you. Finally, effective solutions for problems address reality, not the ideology. We need leaders who can unite us in finding solutions, balance the interests of all, and find common ground to move the country forward. People seeking power with unrealistic promises, pandering to extremist special interest groups will only reverse our progress. If you care, you will not waste your vote, not this time.

- Asian Tribune -

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