A majoritarian dictatorship proposed

A majoritarian dictatorship proposed

The proposal via a couple of private members bills presented to Sri Lanka’s parliament by Wijedasa Rajapaksa appears to smack of a move towards majoritarian dictatorship. Although the parties that are representative of their ethnicity or religion appear to be unaffected, the effect on smaller parties is undeniable.

Wijedasa Rajaoaksa’s proposal includes a move to increase the 5% to 12.5% of the votes to become eligible to be appointed as a member of parliament. An examination of the voting pattern will reveal that the JVP will be the most affected.

Parties who have a base as their religion for example like the SLMC and the ACMC will perhaps not be that affected as candidates they field in their strongholds will usually vote for their candidate. The same is true of the Tamil National Alliance candidates.

Wijedasa Rajapaksa points out that it was Ranasinghe Premadasa who brought in the lowering of the minimum vote just days before a general election in order to secure minority votes that benefited him. The counter is that by lowering the threshold to just 5% it enabled the JVP to also enter the mainstream political arena – a perhaps far better proposition than tackling the historical violence of the JVP.

Be that as it may the proposal in its present form will not augur well for Sri Lanka’s stated desire to firmly establish an equitable lifestyle for all its people irrespective of race, ethnicity and religion.

President Gothabya Rajapaksa was elected with a comfortable majority with a turnout of over 83% nationally. In that annus horribilis for President Mahinda, in 2015 he polled a not to be sniffed at 22+% of the vote in the former conflict areas and from areas where the Tamil speaking population are in the majority. This year in 2019 that same segment of Sri Lanka voted heavily for yet another Sinhala Buddhist albeit from a different political ideology – Sajith Premadasa. It could be argued that the people of Sri Lanka voted tactically rather than communally.

President Rajapaksa speaking at his inaugural address to parliament  – the first non-MP to have become President – stated the need for a constitutional change to strengthen peoples’ mandate like Security and stability.

One simple does not need to change the rules or shift the goal posts to exclude certain political parties like the JVP who have been vociferous opponents in parliament.

A healthy opposition makes for great governance for it keeps the majority in parliament in check.

It can be argued that moves to fix a result by tweaking the rules to ensure perhaps a two thirds majority in parliament will not exactly endear the present government to the majority of a cross section of Sri Lanka’s diverse population. It will only make the task of returning to unity and reconciliation that much more difficult. As it is some sections of the population harbour a genuine if not legitimate fear that their safety is at stake.

It goes against the grain of democracy and basic human rights if democracy is interpreted to mean that majoritarian rule is at the expense of an absence of equity for the minorities – political or ethnic based.

Sri Lanka needs to tread carefully. President Gotha’s popularity is ample power enough for him to deliver the goods the people of Sri Lanka want.