Feature Article

PA-JVP said closer to formula for capturing power

[TamilNet, Friday, 28 March 2003, 16:44 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s main opposition parties said Friday they were closer to striking a deal on forming an alliance to bring down Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government. The People’s Alliance and the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) had discussions on formulating the crucial clauses of a memorandum of understanding to cement the alliance at the President’s House in Colombo Friday.

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Political analysts in Colombo say that the signing of the PA-JVP MOU would foreshadow the dissolution of the Parliament and the defeat of the UNF in the fresh polls to Parliament that would follow.

The PA-JVP MOU has been delayed due to the latter’s staunch opposition to granting regional autonomy to Tamils in the island’s northeast.

Both parties, however, have jointly organised big mass rallies and demonstrations to oppose Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s policy on settling the island’s ethnic conflict and the rising cost of living.

Addressing a press conference Friday afternoon, PA media spokesman, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, said agreement on the key issues of his party’s MOU with the JVP was close at hand. Opposition sources said the talks continued late into evening.

The President, according to Sri Lanka’s constitution, can dissolve Parliament after one year of a general election at her sole discretion.

President Kumaratunga and her advisors believe that an alliance with the JVP would be a sure recipe for winning the general election that will follow when she dissolves Parliament.

Vimal Weerawansa
The JVP has 16 seats in Sri Lanka’s 225 member legislature. The PA has 77. The UNF has 114 (UNP -109; SLMC -5). The EPDP – 2; PLOTE-1 and TNA 15.

The party came third in terms of the votes it polled in all the Sinhala majority districts of the island. The UNP polled 45.62 percent of the total valid votes polled at the 2001 December general elections (4086026 votes).

The PA got 37.19 percent (3330815 votes) while the JVP garnered 9.10 percent (815353) of the total votes polled at the 2001 elections to Sri Lanka’s Parliament.

“Even if we assume that the UNP’s popularity remains what it was on the eve of the last general elections, the combined votes of the JVP and PA would be quite adequate to rout Ranil’s government”, a pro - PA analyst said.

Under the island’s elections system, a party can win seats in the Parliament according to the percentage of votes its polls in each electoral district it contests and the percentage of total votes it gets nationwide. In addition to this the party that gets the majority of the votes in an electoral district gets the bonus seat for that district.

There are 22 electoral districts in Sri Lanka. The UNP polled the majority of the votes in 17 districts at the 2001 December general elections. (The TNA got the bonus seat in Jaffna, Vanni and Batticaloa) The PA was able to get the bonus seat only in Monaragala.

The UNP got the majority of the votes in each districts where it won by a slender margin over the PA (except Nuwara Eliya).

For example in the southern district of Matara the UNP got 171661 votes in the 2001 polls. The PA got 171141 and the JVP 55476.

If the JVP and PA join forces then the combine will get the bonus seats in at least 18 electoral districts and the majority of the seats allocated according to the percentage of votes polled at the district and national levels.

In the event of such a victory, the PA-JVP coalition can form a government without having to depend on the support of Tamil or Muslim parties.

The absence of a tangible peace dividend, the rising cost of living and moves by the UNF to privatise state enterprises have made heavy dents on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government.

Seeing the sure window of opportunity, the JVP is keen to craft the MOU with the PA carefully, with an eye on long term plans to overwhelm its partner and capture power on its own.

Initially the JVP was stubbornly opposed to continuing peace talks with the Liberation Tigers. However, the party, according to informed sources, changed its mind after persuasion by a friendly external power and the PA leadership.

But the JVP still insists that there is an insidious conspiracy by the US and its allies behind the current peace process and that the ceasefire agreement between Colombo and the Liberation Tigers should be re-drafted.

The JVP is also opposed to granting a federal structure of regional autonomy for the Tamils in the island’s northeast.

Informed political sources in Colombo say that the PA is persuading the JVP to accept the peace process and the concept of granting autonomy to solve the conflict ‘tactically’ so that the main objective of bringing down the UNF could be undertaken without further delays.

 

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