Today, the Western Province goes to the polls. Like the previous PC elections, today's contest, too, will be a referendum on the government's military campaign as the successful war has eclipsed all other issues. The government is banking on the euphoric mood of the masses to bag the much coveted WPC and the Opposition is trying to market doom and gloom by drawing the public attention to the seamy side of the national economy and high cost of living. Which side will win is not difficult to predict.
It is being argued that the WPC election will be a test of government policies in urban Sri Lanka. This argument is not tenable in that people who vote for the UPFA will do so because of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who by virtue of his strength of character and position of power, has come to run a one man show of sorts. His PR-rich image has got a mega boost from the government's successful war effort which has yielded impressive results. As for the UNP in the throes of a leadership crisis, people will vote for the party rather than individuals.
It will be interesting to see how the traditionally pro-UNP Colombo City and its adjacent urban constituencies vote today. Whether the government and the SLMC will be able to make inroads into those Green Bastions remains to be seen. And the UNP will have to fare extremely well in the Colombo city, its suburbs and the Kalutara and the Gampaha Districts, if it is to make a comeback or at least retain the number of seats it had previously and avert another mutiny on board. A defeat will aggravate its debilitating internal problems further and plunge it into a deeper crisis.
Meanwhile, the background of each and every prominent candidate in the fray is fairly well known and the number of preferential votes he or she polls will reveal whether people of the Western Province are capable of making a wise choice in electing their representatives. It was only the other day that Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake urged people not to vote for unsavoury elements. On Thursday, Minister Dallas Alahapperuma also asked people to be wary of voting for thugs and drug dealers, but there's the rub. People may have to emulate Diogenes of Sinope, who with a burning lamp in hand famously searched for an honest person in broad daylight.
There may be good men and women in the fray but can anyone vouch for the fact that they are not in league with anti-social elements? Electing someone in cahoots with underworld figures is as bad as electing a thug or a drug dealer himself. Even if the vast majority of people were to vote wisely, seats allocated to parties invariably outnumber the good successful candidates and the remaining slots automatically go to undesirables with fewer preferential votes. That is the way with the PR system! People have no way of targeting and eliminating bad guys from the contest, even if they really want to. That is possible only under the First-past-the-post system, provided the majority of people are willing to vote only for good candidates. Even under that system, in most cases people may be without a choice, if parties field unsavoury elements! The best way to prevent thugs, drug barons and other lawbreakers going places in politics, we believe, is for the political parties and registered independent groups to desist from nominating them.
As for today's polls, we hope people will have lamps ready to look for good candidates.