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Premature opportunity stays immediate challenge

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Despite the Sinhala chauvinists’ histrionics no political party except the ultra right will be keen to go for a fresh election.

The two major political parties of the majority community [the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and United National Party (UNP)] are not inclined to go to the hustings unless and until they are certain that ground situation is favourable for them or can be ensured to be so.

No deep reflection is required to judge the position of the SLFP: it will always try to cling to the limited power it presently holds.

The Opposition Leader, Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe, thinks that stakes are better in a Presidential Election than in pursing Parliamentary power for his party though a general election. He is convinced that the former demands priority and that if he secures Presidential power, his party could thereafter take Parliamentary power one way or other.

Whether the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) would welcome a general election now having just brought about the split in the ruling alliance by opposing President Kumaratunga is also doubtful.

The Muslim Congress (SLMC), which is in a shambles in the wake of a power struggle, will also seek to avoid a general election. Even if its leadership to punish the renegades who crossed over to government side in exchange for ministerial positions and other favours, the party would not welcome an election until it can rebuild itself.

However, the hamstrung Parliament situation will spur the Muslim Congress to manoeuvre to recoup its previous position and to reacquire its strength.

Even the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) cannot to be said to be in favour of an immediate election. That party would like to go before its [Estate] voters only after giving them more through the Cabinet portfolios it holds.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is unlikely to make any hasty decision on whether elections must be held immediately. The Tamils are not that concerned who takes power in the Sinhala south.

Nevertheless, we can expect the Tamil Alliance to extend its support and cooperation, without contradicting its policy stances, to any southern party which is genuinely committed to finding a peaceful solution to the ethnic issue.

Thus, it can also be expected that the TNA will not hesitate to fend off any attempt by the Sinhala chauvinists to bring down the government over the issue of the joint mechanism.

Indeed, if the situation of a hamstrung Parliament continues, we can expect political manoeuvring towards marginalizing those forces which are manifestly opposed to Tamil interests or are likely to be so in future.

Therefore, on the whole, the government’s loss of majority in the house is unlikely to bring about its immediate fall. [But] the question is for how long can this government hold on to power? The adage that the operation was successful but the patient had died holds true here. The government has survived the JVP’s exit for now. But can it actually function and last?

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