Nanda Wanninayaka firstname.lastname@example.org
Jokers (and jerks – including Mr Anura Dissanayaka) apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential election scheduled to be held on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the frontrunners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers. After the election day, they will end up as also-rans.
In these few articles, I concentrate on the strengths and the weeknesses of the two candidates by comparing and contrasting 10 areas of concern in alphabetical order. This post deals with the ELECTION CAMPAIGN of the duo. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part III –EDUCATION for the previous post. The next area, the EXPERIENCE of the two candidates, will be discussed in the Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part IV – EXPERIENCE.)
I am sure the election campaigns must have played a key role ever since the democratic elections were introduced in modern representative democracy which came into play since the 17th century. In Sri Lankan context, elections had been rather peaceful till that scoundrel of a politician, the late Mr J. R. Jayawardene became the Prime Minister in 1977 and then declared himself as the executive President of Sri Lanka without having a separate presidential election. Though he gained an unassailable 5/6th power in the parliament through a democratically held election, he ensured peaceful elections will not happen again not only within his political lifespan, but also through the next President Mr Ranasinghe Premadasa era which abruptly ended in the hands of a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber in 1993. Then parachuted Ms Chandrika Kumaratunga into Sri Lanka’s political void in 1994, first as the Prime Minister, then the President the very same year through rather violent elections as she had to fight against the then UNP government. The country had seen enough election violence between 1977 to 1994 and by then and was fed up with the rigged elections which came with a “bonus” of election violence with scores being killed and injured by the state-sponsored violence. So, now politicians have to execute their election campaigns with fair play with creative methods than unleashing violence.
Even though Gota comes from a family which produced many a national-level politician to the country, is not a typical politician as he was a serviceman in the army, then a computer professional in the USA and then the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense & Urban Development in Sri Lanka. So, he is a better administrator than a career politician. So, his campaign is obviously weaker than that of his rival Sajith. Having understood this, Gota has allowed his supporters, mainly comprise of many professionals from a myriad of areas to steer the campaign for him. His campaign uses a lot of technology and social media and the internet at its best. This is where Gota has the upper hand over Sajith. Rather than unrealistic election promises, Gota’s camp addresses the prevalent challenges the country faces and the voters might go for him if they are convinced of his prowess. As per the traditional style campaign is concerned, Gota’s elder brother Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa who is a career politician throughout his adult life, takes great care of that part of the battle I guess.
When you look at the number of new Facebook accounts, FB groups, newly started news websites, etc., that support Sajith, it is crystal clear that a Putin-style campaign is in action to promote Sajith, just like it happened with Mr Donald J. Trump‘s election campaign to support the latter’s White House bid. Gotabaya’s campaign is nowhere near, not even close to counter Sajith’s. To me, his traditional style campaign also is stronger than that of Gota’s. Sajith fought against all odds and “grabbed” the opportunity to get the candidacy to represent UNP-led camp, just like his late father did in 1988 and to everyone’s surprise, has been able to garner almost all the support from his party (maybe barring Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe.) If not for the unrealistic promises the former keeps giving the public and the stupid remarks he does at election rallies, I am sure he will be able to secure an unexpected win this November, just like Trump did in his trails to the White House in 2016.