Will Govt Be Able To Cash In On Inclement Weather?

Turning down requests made by various parties, Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya on Monday said no decision has been made to postpone the presidential election due to inclement weather.

According to the statistics of the Disaster Management Centre, 1106380 people, in 21 districts, have been affected due to inclement weather conditions. Uva, North Central and Central province have been severely affected due to floods, landslides and heavy rains. “The official death toll stands at 30 with 06 people missing,” a spokesperson of the Disaster Management Ministry told Asian Mirror on Monday Morning.

 It is in this context that various requests were made to the Department of elections to postpone the presidential polls. However, according to sources of the Elections Department, various obstacles are standing in the way of postponement – including the papal visit which is scheduled to commence on January 13.  “Therefore, the Elections Department is not inclined to postpone the election,” a senior official of the Elections Department told Asian Mirror.

As an immediate measure, the Elections Department has already accelerated the issuance of National ID cards for the people who have lost their IDs due to the unexpected natural disaster. In addition to that, the Elections Commissioner is expected to visit all the affected districts to make a personal assessment of the situation.

It is interesting to see the “political outcome” of the natural disaster which occurred just two days away from the country’s seventh presidential election. On the surface, it looks as if the inclement weather has crippled several strongholds of the Common Candidate of the opposition.

Badulla, is one the worst-hit areas where Maithripala Sirisena, Common Candidate of the opposition, holds an edge over his main opponent. In addition to that, Polonnaruwa, the hometown of the Common Candidate, has also been affected due to heavy rains. However, it is widely believed that President Mahinda Rajapaksa still has the lead in other rural areas where there is a Sinhala-Buddhist majority. Apart from Polonnaruwa and Badulla, there are 19 other districts across the country, where people have been affected due to inclement weather. Therefore, when taking the bigger picture into consideration, one can arrive at the conclusion that no candidate will be able to “cash in” on the natural disaster where the presidential election is concerned.

On the other hand, a natural disaster of this scale will naturally create a sense of discontentment among the victims, irrespective of their political beliefs. Any discontentment, at this juncture, is likely to go in favour of the candidate of the opposition.  If the situation in Badulla and Polonnaruwa gives a “special advantage” to the President, this ‘sense of discontentment’ that is wedded to the natural disaster will nullify that to a large extent.

However, on the other hand, the absence of national identity cards and transportation problems leaves room for malpractices and election law violations. Therefore, the responsibility lies with the Elections Department of the country and Election Monitors to take necessary measures to prevent any such moves. When contacted by Asian Mirror, a senior official of the Elections Department said that was one reason why they decided to accelerate the issuance of National IDs. But the country is yet to see the progress of this country. One should also be mindful of the fact that Sri Lanka has a dirty history when it comes to vote rigging, especially over the past three and a half decades.

Be that as it may, the election is likely to take place on January 08 as scheduled, unless a major development does not take place in the coming days. 

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