August 6, 2018 (LBO) – Who will the next President of Sri Lanka be? As the speculation mounts as to who the candidates for the presidency will be, it seems prudent to look at who most resembles the electorate.
The electorate can be sliced and diced in may different ways. Analysis can be done based on race, religion, geography, economics etc. All of these factors are important in analysis of a population and how they might vote. However, one thing is for certain: age does not lie.
When looking at the age structure of the population of Sri Lanka, one thing is blatantly obvious. The eligible voting population of those over 50 is much less than the eligible voting population of those under 50.
To be more specific, the eligible voting population of Sri Lanka from age 20-50 is approximately 10 million, while the eligible voting population age 50 and upwards is less than 5 million.
It would seem as if the electorate would favour a candidate under 50 years of age, as in Sri Lanka there are sharp generational differences between older and younger age groups. Sri Lanka has changed so much in the last few decades, and so have the hopes and dreams of its younger population. They are very different from their parents and grandparents.
So as fate would have it, all the leading candidates for the presidency in Sri Lanka are age 65+. This age cohort encompasses just 1.5 million members of the voting population. Whether it be Maithri, Ranil, Gotabaya, Basil, Chamal, Dinesh, GL, etc… it is hard to understand how any of these candidates would appeal to the youth of the country. As the age cohort skews younger, the less loyalty these political leaders will have among voters under 50 years of age.
So in comes the 41 year old Kumar Sangakkara. How would any of the above contenders compete for the youth votes? How would the older candidates communicate with younger swaths of the population? How would any of the above candidates compete on the internet or on social media? How would any of the above candidates compete with regard to voter enthusiasm?
As was recently shown during the last local government elections, voters are not necessarily loyal to the established political parties. People can get behind a personality as they did behind Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sangakkara is possibly another personality that may transcend party politics.
Sri Lanka seems ripe for a young President, and Kumar Sangakkara is a once in a lifetime candidate. As is the Sri Lankan way, many will try to defame him and tear him down. Sri Lanka will miss another golden opportunity if he gets disheartened.
Age structure of the Sri Lankan population, 2012 figures from the department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka website: