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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 81

Presidential Elections and the North East Factor

[b]Presidential Elections and the North East Factor[/b]

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

[i][b] “Experience showed that even the simplest events always worked out differently from what one would have thought beforehand.”[/b][/i][b]Thomas Mann[/b] ([i]The Magic Mountain[/i])

In an election, simple arithmetic reigns supreme. The winner of the coming elections will be either Mahinda Rajapakse or Ranil Wickremesinghe and neither can win without some backing from the North and the East. Mahinda Rajapakse if he is serious about becoming the President will have to come to an alliance with the JVP; however even with such an alliance he cannot prevail without winning a segment of the North Eastern vote. Ranil Wickremesinghe is even more dependent on the North Eastern vote. Therefore both candidates will make a considerable effort to win the backing of those parties/organisations they believe can deliver the votes of the Tamil people of the North and the East.

In this game Mr. Wickremesinghe starts off with an advantage. There can be very little doubt that the Tigers would back Mr. Wickremesinghe, as they did in every single election from 1999. And it is highly unlikely that Mr. Rajapakse can beat Mr. Wickremesinghe in the game of appeasing the LTTE. The alliance between Mr. Wickremesinghe and the Tigers is a very strong one, as the President herself found out to her cost. She sacrificed her parliamentary majority for P-TOMS because she believed that she would be able to win over the Tigers (and the international community) and prolong her political life with their backing. The Tigers played along with her and then let her down, and ended up murdering her Foreign Minister.

The unenviable fate of the President, who first betrayed the Karuna rebellion (last year) and then dumped the JVP in the hope of winning over the Tigers, should serve as a lesson for the Prime Minister. Mr. Rajapakse will never be able to win the backing of the Tiger, so long as Mr. Wickremesinghe is around. The PM may delude himself into thinking that he will be able to gain the backing of the LTTE via either the TNA or the ‘pro-peace’ President. The Tigers, as is their wont, will string him along as they did the President, winning as many concessions on the ground as possible along the way (especially in the East), until the moment of final betrayal.

[b]Anti-Tiger, Pro-Devolution[/b]

The Tamil polity and society are divided along pro-Tiger and anti-Tiger lines and the twain shall never meet, unless the Sinhalese are stupid enough to unleash another July 1983. Those Tamils who are pro-Tiger will never vote for Mr. Rajapakse since even with his very best efforts he will not be able to beat Mr. Wickremesinghe in the task of appeasing the Tigers. Consequently the best Mr. Rajapakse can do is to win the backing of anti-Tiger Tamils (and Muslims), by taking a clear stand against the Tigers and for devolution. But it is unlikely that he will do so; what he is likely to come up with is a hotch potch (consisting of pro-Tigerism and support for the unitary state) that will alienate anti-Tiger Tamils and Muslims without winning over the pro-Tiger Tamils. His statements on the subject show that he is rather confused about both the ethnic problem and the Tigers.

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