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South has spoken, again!

The Southern Provincial Council election is over and the voters have delivered their verdict. The voters and candidates are looking forward to the government’s announcement of the new Chief Minister for the province. As the UPFA kept the CM post open, several candidates from all three districts had campaigned under the title ‘future CM of the South.’ The UNPers are waiting to know who will be the next Opposition Leader. The former Opposition Leader of the Council Justin Galappaththi, this time contested under the UPFA ticket and several UNP councilors are eyeing the post.

Hambantota District UPFA team leader V. K. Indika has secured the highest percentage of preferential votes among all his fellow party candidates who vied for the CM post. He bagged 56,855 preferential votes with a percentage of 29. 46% while the party has received 192961 votes. Shan Wijelal de Silva, the former CM has obtained 92,292 preferential votes from the Galle District with a 26. 07%. Matara District UPFA team leader Hemal Gunasekara received 63,323. It is 24. 63% of 257110 votes the UPFA had polled from the district.

V. K. Indika entered politics in the 1999 Provincial Council election and he was in sixth place in then Peoples’ Alliance winning list. He was the last of the elected to the Council from the district. At the 2004 PC poll, he climbed up to the fifth place in the UPFA winning list with 30198 votes. His percentage in 2004 was 21.37. This time he topped the UPFA district list. His campaign that called for people to vote for him to become the CM, a post that had not been given to the Hambantota District since its inception, seemed to have yielded the expected results.

Same pattern could be observed in other two districts: Matara people voted for Hemal Gunasekera to come on top of the list because they wanted the next CM from the Matara District. In 2004 Hemal was the fifth of the UPFA winning list with 29021 preferential votes and 15.93%. In Galle, Shan Wijelal de Silva polled 59826 preferential votes in 2004 with a percentage of 25.1. This time his percentage increased to the 26 per cent mark making him the defending candidate for the title.

Matara District politicians insist that the next CM should be from their district but the strong factor against them is that the post had never gone to the Hambantota District in Provincial Council history. From 1988 to 1994 the CM was from the Galle District, M. S. Amarasiri of the UNP and Amarasiri Dodangoda of the Peoples’ Alliance. From 1995 to 2004 the office of the CM was occupied by Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and H. G. Sirisena from the Matara District. After 2004, it had gone again to the Galle District and CM was Shan Wijelal de Silva.

Matara District UNP leader for the SPC poll, Buddhika Pathirana, who was the CM hopeful of the UNP is tipped to be appointed the next Opposition Leader of the Council. Buddhika had received the highest percentage (61.09%) of preferential votes polled for any single party as a candidate in Saturday’s SPC election, secured 57,802 votes of the 94,614 received by UNP for the Matara District. Those who came first in their party lists in the province were, Shan Wijelal De Silva [UPFA Galle District, 92,294 votes (26.07%)], Krishantha Pushpakumara [ UNP Galle District, 52,371, (37.36%)], Hemal Gunaesekara [UPFA, Matara District, 63,323 (24.63%)], V.K.Indika [UPFA Hambantota District, 56,855 (29.46%)], and Thennakoon Senaratne [UNP Hambantota District, 23894, (37.29%)].

The JVP which suffered heavily during the last couple of years received vote percentages of 3.85% from the Galle District, 5.47% from the Matara District and 11.01% from the Hambantota District, from the total number of votes cast. The favouring factors, such as its strongest presence in the Southern Province, which is known as traditional breeding ground of the party, and having its one and only Pradeshiya Sabha in the same province, having lots of relations of the JVP founder leader Rohana Wijeweera in the Tangalle electorate of Hambantota District and Devinuwara electorate of Matara District, seemed to produce only insignificant results as they secured only three seats in the entire province. The JVP received the highest percentage of votes from the Hambantota District. Electorate-wise the highest percentage, 11.89%, recorded from the Tangalle electorate of the same district. The JVP obtained 6.11% of votes from the entire Southern Province. It is the highest percentage the JVP obtained during the recent round of Provincial Council elections. JVP got only 2.53% from the Uva, 2.42% from the Western, 1. 41% from the Central, 2.12% from the North Western, 4.9% from the North Central, 2.23% from the Sabaragamuwa and 1.59% from the Eastern Provinces.

However, the party is in no position to interpret the latest results as indicative of a progressive trend, owing to the factor it had failed to achieve above its own past records. Compared to the party’s 1999 SPC records, the last election the JVP contested as a single party, as they contested the 2004 with the UPFA, there is no increase in JVP’s vote bank. In 1999, the JVP had secured 38,817 votes with 8.44% from Galle, 40,276 votes with 11.84% from Matara and 47,256 votes with 20.66% from the Hambantota District. The percentage of the entire Southern Province in 1999 was 12.28 and JVP received 126,339 votes. The JVP got seven seats in the SPC – two from Galle, two from Matara and three from Hambantota – in 1999. This time they could secure only three seats, one from each of the three districts. Thus, it could be in no way wrong to conclude that there is a decline of JVP’s vote bank in its so-called home province.

This time the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress led by Rauff Hakeem went it alone, but was not able to secure any seat of the SPC. They could only secure 0.55% from the entire province. The SLMC secured third place of the Galle and Weligama electorates, with 4.26% and 5.07% respectively. They didn’t fare well in Dickwella and Matara towns, though these towns have a stronger Muslim presence. The SLMC did not contest in the Hambantota District.

The UNP too had not fared well. This is the second lowest percentage of the UNP at this year’s Provincial Council election series. The UNP’s vote percentage (25.09%) in the SPC polls is only the second lowest percentage. The lowest it recorded in the Uva Province (22.32%). According to the election results of the Eastern Provincial Council election which was held in 2008 the UNP received 42.38% votes from the entire province (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress led by MP Rauff Hakeem contested the poll with the UNP). After that the percentage of the UNP has shown a gradual decrease. The UNP got 40. 53% and 37.64% from Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provinces respectively. Then, the party received 38. 65% from the Central and 28.07% from the North Western Provinces. The party’s vote percentage had increased by just one percent at the Western Province (29.58%), which is considered a strong vote base of the UNP. The party could secure 22.32% from the Uva Province. However, this time they could increase it to 2.77% of votes. But the UNP percentage this time (25.06%) is a decrease of 8.62% compared with the 2004 SPC polls. In 2004, the UNP had secured 291,943 total votes with 33.71%.

The UNP received the highest percentage (40.37%) of votes from the Galle electorate which is a major UNP base led by the District leader MP Vajira Abeywardena. There is no strong UNP organizer for Matara electorate since the crossing over of Mahinda Wijesekera from UNP to the UPFA. But the party had recorded its second highest percentage of votes (34.64%) from the Matara electorate. The contribution of Matara MP Mangala Samaraweera, whose blessings were with the UNP, seemed to have produced this achievement.

MP Mangala Samaraweera claims that this time there were around 500,000 people who did not cast their votes in the Southern Province. He says that this is the beginning of the end of the present UPFA regime. His observation needed to be viewed against the previous election records. In 2004, around 732,224 of the registered number of voters did not cast their votes at the SPC poll. Then MP Samaraweera was with the UPFA and he actively engaged in the SPC race. With Samaraweera’s contribution and JVP as a coalition member, the UPFA has secured 561643 (64.86%) votes out of 865902 votes from the Southern Province. This time it has increased to 804071 (67.88%). This 3.02 percent increase came without the support of MP Samaraweera and the JVP. This is the third highest number of votes for the UPFA in the recent PC polls series. The highest percentage (72.39%) obtained from the Uva and second highest (69. 43%) recorded from North Western Provincial Council Polls.

The lowest UPFA’s percentage (50. 71%) of the Southern Province was recorded from the Galle electorate which is a UNP stronghold. The second lowest percentage (57.40%) for the UPFA recorded from the Matara electorate. In 2004, Hambantota District recorded the highest percentage of votes for the UPFA. It was 70.12%. Second highest is 64.3% from the Matara District and Galle District was in the third place with 62.5% percentage of votes. However, this time it has changed. The UPFA recorded the highest percentage (68.34%) from the Galle District, second highest 67.97% from Matara and third 66.95% from the Hambantota districts.

Another significant feature was that the people of South did not sell their votes for the money of outsiders. Galle District SLFP leader Sajin de Vass Gunawardena who poured down millions of rupees ended in the fourth place with 70627 preferential votes. The difference between Sajin and Shan Wijelal who topped the list was a huge margin of 19667 votes. Vote base of the Vocational Training Minister Piyasena Gamage helped his son newcomer Randima Gamage to secure the second place in the Galle District, topping the list with 77418 preferential votes. Chandima Rasaputhra of the Matara District who was also spending millions for the campaign, could secure only the third place with 40066 preferential votes. Aruna Gunarathne, a former Director of the Southern Development Authority and former Chairman of the Devinuwara Pradeshiya Sabha, contested under the UPFA ticket from the Matara District was the last of the winning list with 28239. He is a close relation of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa and has spent millions for the campaign. Kapila Dissanayake of the UPFA contested from the Hambantota District and he could secure only the third place with 48832 preferential votes. Dissanayake who is a Presidential Coordinator and one of cousins of the President Rajapaksa campaigned to become the top of the Hambantota winning list.

Former Opposition leader of the SPC Justin Galappaththy who contested under the UPFA ticket this time is in the second lowest place in the winning list of Matara District with 28371 preferential votes.

Former Senior DIG D. W. Prathapasinghe who retired to contest the SPC poll was contested under the UPFA ticket from the Matara District and popular actress Susantha Chandramali from the Hambantota District were not able to secure their slots. All of them are residents of the district but outsiders. Matara District UNP candidate D. N. Daluwaththa campaigned he will secure the highest majority of preferential votes, publishing full page newspaper advertisements. But, he couldn’t even secure a slot.

National Freedom Front Leader MP Wimal Weerawansa fielded three candidates from each district, but any of them did not secure any slots. Dharmasena Kodituwakku of the Hambantota District is in the 14th place (total number of candidates are 15), Sarath Weerawansa of the Matara District who is the brother of Wimal Weerawansa is the 20th on the list (total number of candidates are 21) and Athula Priyantha Bellana of the Galle District in the 24th place,the 26th member list. Sarath Weerawansa is a former JVP Matara Pradehiya Sabha member and Athula Priyanth Bellana is a former Western Provincial Councillor from the JVP. Bellana was the fifth on the UPFA list (JVP contested under the UPFA ticket) of the Kalutara District in 2004 Provincial Council election. Weerawansa fielded him from Galle District this time and it would be the reason to his defeat.

However, popular actress Anarkali Akarsha is the only outsider who was able to secure her slot from the Galle District with 26728 preferential votes. Nishantha Muthuhettigama’s drama would have helped her to take some preferential votes. Muthuhettigama who contested from ther same party targeted her at every public meeting. Because of that Anarkali got the public sympathy. It got her some votes from the District.

Former UNP senior councillors Maithri Gunarathne, Bandula Lal Bandarigoda and popular character Manusha Nanayakkara of Galle District went down in the Galle District winners’ list and newcomer Krishantha Pushpakumara (popularly know as Raththaran) topped the list with 52371 preferential votes. Former Senior Councillor Devaka Weerasinghe from the Hambantota District was not able to secure his slot this time.

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