November 13, 2019 (LBO) – Intense campaigning for Sri Lanka’s Presidency will come to an end tonight at midnight. After a 48 hour cooling off period, Sri Lankans will go to the polls on November 16th to decide who will be the nation’s next President.
Although the two main contenders are Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa and former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the deciding votes of the election could be in the hands another. That individual is the National People’s Power (NPP) candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) and his command over a significant JVP vote block.
The JVP polled 711,000 votes in Sri Lanka’s local government elections 18 months ago amidst a high turnout of near 80% islandwide. If the majority of those voters stick with the JVP leader AKD (and there is no reason to indicate that they won’t), their second preferences may be the deciding factor in the election.
In the last Presidential election held in 2015, the JVP joined a UNP backed alliance and helped elect Manthripala Sirisena to the Presidency. The margin of victory in that election was just 450,000 votes.
This time the JVP is supporting their own candidate, and it is likely their vote bank far surpasses the margin of victory in the above mentioned 2015 Presidential election.
In 2015, the JVP took a very anti-Rajapaksa stand giving support to a battle that was branded as democracy versus dictatorship. This time in 2019, their campaign is significantly different.
To his credit, AKD seems to be saying all the right things. He has attracted the attention of many new voters, even if in the end those voters support one of the major candidates.
However, in the NPP 2019 Presidential campaign, the NPP has yet to define the battle as a democracy versus dictatorship. The NPP has targeted a voter that is disaffected by both major parties, without giving an indication of preference of one major party over the other. This undeclared indication of preference could be the determining factor in the 2019 election.
So two of the most important unanswered questions in the 2019 Presidential election appear to be: Who will the NPP voter cast their second preference vote for? Will the NPP voter decide to cast a second preference at all?
Coming right down to the wire, the NPP has not encouraged their voters to go either way. The result of the 2019 Presidential election may rest with their ballots. What say you AKD?