Discussions regarding the postponement of elections has again come to the fore with the adoption of the Local Authorities Elections Act on 25th August and the Provincial councils Elections Act on September 20th. While 120 MPs voted in favour of the Bill amending the Lcal Authorities Elections Act No.22 of 2012, 44 abstained from voting. 154 members voted for the Bill amending the Provincial Councils Elections Act No 02 of 1988 and 43 voted against it. That bill was passed by a two thirds majority only because the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) voted for it.
Though various matters had been put forwards as the aim of the said Amending Bills, the real purpose was to postpone elections without holding them on due dates. Up to now Local Government Elections are more than two and a half years overdue. Those elections were due to be held in 2015. Local Government Authorities were dissolved on 15th June 2015 and since then they are being administered under Special Commissioners. In the meantime, the official periods of several Provincial Councils are due to expire during the course of this year. Accordingly the official periods of the Sabaragamuwa, Eastern, and the North Central Provincial Councils expired on September 26th, September 30th, and October 1st respectively. The government embarked on a 20th Amendment to the Constitution with the purpose of postponing Provincial Council Elections. However, the government abandoned the 20th Amendment to the Constitution on September 19th when the Supreme Court held that the proposed amendment required to be passed by a Referendum in addition to a two thirds majority in Parliament. What the government did thereafter was to include the same contents in the Provincial Councils Elections Amendment Bill contrary to established legal traditions and pass it through parliament on the very next day.
Even though the declared main purpose of the amendment was to make the female representation 30%, what has actually been done is to make it the pretext to change the entire election system. Thereby the Constitution has been changed to effect the election to Provincial Councils on electorate basis. There is no nexus between increasing women’s representation and changing the election system. What has really been done is to bring through the back door a Bill which had been refused by the Supreme Court, and to pass it within one day in an undemocratic manner depriving the citizens of the right to challenge it legally. This is proved to be a new Act and not an amendment to the previous one by the fact that a 31 page amendment has been brought to purportedly amend a 3 page Act. Furthermore, provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution have been amended by this Act, and it will go down in history as the first time that the Constitution has been amended through an ordinary Act. These amendments were seen for the first time by Members of Parliament on the 20th od September in Parliament, while no other Citizen of Lanka had seen it. These amendments were first seen by the Elections Commission around 2.30 pm on September 20th. Therefore, this is an Act adopted in secrecy. It is such a Bill that the TNA and JVP which pretend to be opposition parties, voted for.
The true purpose of this exercise is to postpone elections in the guise of taking time to define electoral boundaries. Why has it become necessary for the government to postpone elections? To understand that, one must analyse the manner in which this government came to power. Is this a government elected with the people’s broad support and representing the people’s aspirations? Most government loyalists say that it is. On the other hand is this government the result of a conspiracy hatched by foreign powers and local Capitalists without any social backing? Those who are merely anti-government including the Joint Opposition usually say that it is. However a good deep inquiry reveals that both the said analysis are incomplete. It is more correct to understand this government to be the result of hijacking through political deception and a game of power, the political slogans which arose from society itself against the manner in which the then Rajapakse regime functioned.
Even before coming to power they intentionally distanced themselves from people’s protests against Neoliberal Capitalist reforms. For example the slogans arising from people’s struggles such as the struggle of the Katunayake Free Trade Zone workers for labour rights, the Chilaw Fishermen’s’ struggle against sacrificing the production economy in favour of the service economy, the students struggle against the privatization of education in the course of which Janaka and Sisitha were murdered, and the people’s struggles which arose at Rathupaswala and Thunnana against the ecological destruction arising from the so=called development strategies, were not heard on election platforms. The slogans for democracy, good governance, and the rule of law which were brought on instead, also included a small fraction of people’s aspirations. However, even those aspirations were smashed once the government was appointed. By now it has been proven that the government lacks the intention, political visions, or the political personality to satisfy the political aspirations of society leave alone develop them. The people’s protests against Neoliberal Capitalism abandoned by the leaders of the government during elections are growing stronger by the day. AS a result, the government has become the object of growing disaffection among the people.
Therefore, the government is unable to face elections at this moment. It is impossible to face the dissatisfaction which has arisen in society. Postponement of elections has therefore become the only political option. The government is hoping to create a situation conducive to winning elections utilizing its financial power, state power, and the leadership power of Bourgeois Parties. But, elections must be postponed while such time. Accordingly, the plans for postponing the Local Government and Provincial Council Elections are created. This is quite contrary to democracy-the main promise on which the government came to power. In our interpretation people’s democratic rights are very wide. Relative to that wide interpretation elections are only a minimum condition.
However, according to the Bourgeois concept of democracy, elections are its ultimate. While the government is acting in breach of the most important part of its own definition of democracy, from the people’s viewpoint the government is robbing them of even the minimum which they can have under Capitalism. In the face of the present crisis of Capitalism the ruling class is compelled to postpone elections, and even if they are held, it will be impossible to hold them democratically, justly or in conformity with even minimum acceptable standards. When one considers the way in which the Provincial Council Elections Bill was passed, it is clear that the Bourgeois has no fundamental values or principles. Faced with the crisis they are contravening and changing the laws, and election maps which they themselves have created. Accordingly, politics has become a scoundrel’s game.
Solutions to this situation cannot be found if socially responsible persons express dissatisfaction with this realty and confine themselves to their own private shells distancing themselves from politics. This could be solved only by the oppressed and progressives taking to politics. There is no other solution than to take into one’s own hand the power to decide one’s fate instead of turning over the political stage permanently to the reactionaries. What we identify as Socialism is a society where the working people take prominence on the political stage and wipe out all these reactionary aspects.