Advent of Sajith and Elpitiya poll


After an acrimonious battle, Sajith Premadasa managed to wrest the UNP’s presidential candidacy and forge a united front, a facade of unity and cordiality in the party for the forthcoming presidential election. The support stalwarts included close friends and loyalists of the prime minister, also a contender for the presidential candidacy. No doubt these big guns, ready to forget friendships and loyalties for the sake of the party, must have seen that Sajith would be a better candidate, able to attract a larger number of voters, particularly the youth and floating vote. They must have thought he is the best to boost the flagging popularity of the party, stop its slide down due to public discontent. Though these supporters were mainly responsible for the unpopularity of the party, Sajith had kept himself somewhat aloof and detached from their unpopular policies, and possibly thought this attitude would acquit him of all blame, and be seen as a blameless UNP leader by the people. Thus he arrived as a new force with much vigour and promise, and a saviour of the party.

If their judgment was correct, Sajith should have made a modicum of an impression at the Elpitiya LG election. The challenge to him was to win at least one division in the Pradeshiya Sabha; he failed in that, the SLPP won all 17. Worse for Sajith is the UNP seems to have retrogressed in 2019 from their position in 2011. They had polled 10427 votes (2011) but only 10113 in 2019; 314 votes less, where 8014 more voted in 2019! Sajith and the UNP could not attract even one vote from those additional voters. Their poll percentage dropped from 29% to 24%. And the voters seem to have compelled themselves to go to the polls even though it was supposed to be only a local government "bokku kaanu chande", making the turnout 79% ; as if they were wanting to make a political statement about the present government and coming elections.

In 2011, there was no SLPP and the SLFP coalition polled 19954 (58%) votes. In 2019 the SLPP polled 23372 (56.3%) and the SLFP 5273 (12.7%), combined they have 28645, - 69% of total valid votes. This 11% jump reflects the public discontent and disappointment with the present government, despite the Sajith factor. When even the JVP improved from 1100 votes in 2011 to 2435 in 2019, the UNP performance, with a new presidential candidate, is pathetic to say the least.

One may argue the Elpitiya election results don’t reflect the probable outcome of the November presidential polls. Elpitiya is not representative of the complex country demography and cannot be a polls survey applicable to the whole country. But that is not the point, the point is Sajith, their trump card has failed to make the smallest impression on the electorate. The impact could be called negative, with the UNP getting less than in 2011, in a situation where the voter turnout increased from 72% to 79%. Clearly the UNP was unable to boost its image with Sajith Premadasa at the top. This means the sins of this government cannot be easily erased; a task beyond a person of Sajith's calibre. He cannot by eloquence undo what his cabinet colleagues have done, being very much a party to it. His ardent supporters, at the top and lower down the party, are not without blemish; ironically Sajith, in his campaign, must make promises aimed at correcting his supporters' evil deeds.

The Elpitiya election winners must not think that people have acquitted them of blame for their misdeeds when in power. They voted for them for two reasons, one; saving their country from separatists, local and foreign, two; to protest against the escalating cost of living, economic mismanagement, and threats of terrorism and to independence. One hopes the winners at Elpitiya have learnt from past mistakes to refrain from repeating them for the sake of the country and its hapless people.


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