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The chips are down

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Although the conclusion was foregone, that the JVP despite all its rhetoric, claimed principles and the rest of it, will support Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse. The formal news was broken, significantly, before the return to the country of President Chandrika Kumaratunga. The tacticians of the Rajapakse campaign obviously wanted to present the SLFP leader with a fait acompli, and that too before this weekend’s SLFP convention at which the premier is to be formally anointed the candidate. We will have to wait and see whether he will run under true blue SLFP colours, under the banner of the People’s Alliance (PA) which is still up and running although the once formidable old left is today only a caricature of what it was or the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), best known as the Sandhanaya which exists only in name after the JVP’s exit from the government earlier this year.

Self-interest is the name of the game and both Rajapakse’s and the JVP’s are served by the arrangement that has been made. There is no doubt that the new left, as represented by the JVP, has organizational capabilities that perhaps surpass those of the UNP and the SLFP which are fuelled more by money than by commitment to a political cause. Its current parliamentary strength, boosted at the last election at the expense of the SLFP, is a gift of proportional representation (PR) the PA parties have long criticized and pledged to amend. If, as the UNP keeps saying ad nauseam, the JVP fields its own candidate its real strength in the country will be exposed. A 200,000 vote base has been mentioned. How correct that is the country will not see at the forthcoming election most likely in November. The JVP, naturally, would not like its real strength put to the acid test and what better way to handle that than strike a deal with Rajapakse, accruing a plethora of benefits including, most likely, a return to the Sandhanaya fold should he emerge the winner?

The decision makes political sense for both parties. President Kumaratunga, the most formidable force that might have resisted it, is now a lame duck licking her wounds after the Supreme Court ruled that she cannot have one more year on the throne. But she has not yet played her last card and what it will be remains to be seen. The UNP would naturally like its opponents divided. The arithmetic of all past elections demonstrates that conclusively. But with the battle as big as it will be and the stakes as high as they are, the contenders cannot have the pitch they would prefer.

(Sepetmber 3, 2005, Edited)

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