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2010 General Election:
Partners gain at the expense of UNP

* UNP Muslim nominees routed
* Partners take Nuwara Eliya slots
* National List expected to cause trouble

Although the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), which contested on the UNP ticket, had obtained two seats in Digamadulla and one each in Batticaloa, Vanni, Trincomalee and Kandy at the recently concluded 2010 parliamentary election, all UNP Muslim nominees failed except in Kandy where Abdul Cader and M. H. A. Haleem retained their seats.

Political sources said that the pre-poll electoral agreement between the UNP and the SLMC had benefited the latter, whereas the influential Muslim group within the UNP ended-up without adequate representation. Sources pointed out that the situation had deteriorated to such an extent, both UNP Muslim nominees failed in Colombo. The SLMC nominee, too, failed, thereby denying the community at least a single MP from Colombo.

Sources said that a re-poll ordered by the Election Secretariat at one polling booth at Trincomalee and 34 polling booths at Nawalapitiya on April 20 would not change the final tally.

Sources said that the failure of the UNP to secure at least one seat on its own in the East was a setback, which could further loosen its grip on the eastern electoral districts.

An SLMC-UNP agreement at the April 2004 general election prevented the UNP from fielding a single Muslim nominee in some electoral districts, including the entire East. The SLMC also received four out of 11 national list slots won by the UNP at that election. Except SLMC General Secretary Hassen Ali, all other SLMC National List nominees switched their allegiance to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The CWC and the Upcountry People’s Front, received two and one national list slots, respectively, leaving the UNP with only four slots. Sources said that the party accommodated Ali Zaheer Moulana, Naveen Dissanayake, G. L. Peiris and K. N. Choksy in the remaining slots. Sources said that the top three joined the Rajapaksa government, while Choksy, too, sided with the Rajapaksas in crucial issues, though he was included in the latest national list.

Sources said that the UNP was likely to receive only nine national list slots at the 2010 general election.

Responding to a query by The Island, a source privy to ongoing negotiations among constituents parties of the UNP-led United National Front, said that the UNP would not be in a position to offer the SLMC, SLFP (Mahajana Wing) and the Western People’s Front more than a single national slot each.

Among the contenders for the remaining UNP national list slots are Eran Wickremaratne, formerly CEO of the National Development Bank and economist Dr. Harsha de Silva. Sources said that they could contribute a lot in parliament. Former Speaker Joseph Michael Perera, Rukman Senanayake, Tilak Marapone and K. N. Choksy are among the other contenders for national list slots.

Sources said that to facilitate the UNP-SLMC agreement for the 2010 general election, the party had to accommodate Tissa Attanayake on the national list. Sources said that Attanayake had to be shifted from Kandy to make way for SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem, who is now widely believed to have polled the highest number of preferential votes obtained by any Opposition candidate contesting from the Kandy electoral district. The Kandy district results will be released only after a re-poll in Nawalapitiya which is scheduled to take place on April 20. Sources said that among the five UNPers expected to be elected from Kandy were three Muslims (Rauff Hakeem, Abdul Cader and M. H. A. Haleem).

UNP nominee for Digamadulla, Daya Gamage has received an assurance from the leadership that he would be accommodated on the national list if he failed to win at the 2010 general election. Sources said that Gamage opposed the SLMC fielding candidates on the UNF list at Digamadulla as it would deny him an opportunity to win due to a split in the district vote.

Sources said that Western People’s Front leader Mano Ganeshan would return to parliament through the national list as he was unsuccessful in Kandy. Mano Ganeshan’s brother, who contested on the UNP ticket was the only Tamil elected to parliament from Colombo from either party.

Of the results announced so far, the UPFA has secured 117 seats against the UNP’s 46. The TNA and the JVP-led Democratic National Alliance (DNA) received 12 and five seats, respectively.

Sources said that even in the Nuwara Eliya electoral district, the only two seats won by the main Opposition party went to two non-UNP nominees, J. Sri Ranga (Citizens Front) and Digambaram (National Union of Workers, who contested on the UNF ticket.

The bottom line is that the actual number of UNPers elected to parliament is very much less than at the previous general election, sources said.

Sources said that the UNP leadership had totally ignored a thorough study on the December 2001 electoral defeat suffered by the party by former UNP Chairman N. G. P. Panditharatne, which severely criticized the pre-poll agreements with the SLMC and the CWC. Panditharatne asserted that such agreements contributed to the UNP’s downfall and rapid deterioration in parliamentary representation.

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