Friday, April 09, 2010

General Elections 2010: If ACTC had not split could TNA have secured a 6th seat in Jaffna?

It is widely speculated that UPFA (EPDP) might not have got their 3rd seat in the Jaffna electoral district and TNA could have got their 6th seat if the votes received by the Tamil Congress had gone for the TNA. Lets us scientifically test this claim:


The present configuration for seat allocation in the Jaffna Electoral district has been worked out as follows:

Total number of relevant votes

(Votes of all parties receiving more than 5% of the votes) = 125,365

“Resulting number” (Number of votes needed to secure one seat) = 125, 365 / 8 = 15,670

(calculated for 8 seats; one seat bonus going for the TNA)

Hence in the first round of seat allocation

TNA – 65, 119 / 15, 670 = 4 seats and a remainder of 2439 votes + 1 bones seat

UPFA – 47,622/15, 670 = 3 seats and a remainder of 612 votes

UNP – 12,624/15,670 = 0 seats and a remainder of 12,624 votes

7 seats allocated one seat yet to be allocated. So in the second round of allocation the 8th seat goes to UNP for having highest number of remainder votes.


If the ACTC (TNPF) had not split and the 6,362 votes it received had gone to the TNA the seat allocation would have been as follows:

Total number of relevant votes

(Votes of all parties receiving more than 5% of the votes) = 131, 727

“Resulting number” (Number of votes needed to secure one seat) = 131, 727 / 8 = 16,465

(calculated for 8 seats; one seat bonus going for the TNA)

Hence in the first round of seat allocation

TNA – 71,481 / 16, 465 = 4 seats and a remainder of 5,621 votes + 1 bonus seat

UPFA – 47,622/16, 465 = 2 seats and a remainder of 14,692 votes

UNP – 12,624/16,465 = 0 seats and a remainder of 12, 624 votes

Only 6 seats allocated in the first round. 7th seat allocated to UPFA having highest number of remainder votes, which means they gain their 3rd seat. 8th seat allocated to UNP for having second highest number of remainder votes.

HENCE THE CONGRESS VOTES ADDED TO TNA (if the split had not happened) DOES NOT MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE FINAL SEAT ALLOCATION. UPFA would have got their 3rd seat irrespective.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The loud and clear message from the voter turnout and the voters in the North and East

Note: This piece appeared on Groundviews on the 29th of January, two days after the election results and (to my surprise and discomfort) was republished by Mangala Samaraweera on his website on the 1st of Feb 2010.

I wrote on the 30th of December in a post to Groundviews (and republished in the Daily Mirror) that the assertion that the Tamil people would be deciders in the Presidential election would be a myth. There was nothing brilliant or extraordinary about what I said at that time, but it was contrary to public perception that was prevalent all over the country and in international media circles. What I suggested was that for the Tamil people to be deciders two conditions have to be fulfilled. I wrote:

“For the Tamils to be the deciders in the election (like they could have been in the last) they have to vote as a whole, to one candidate and the Sinhala votes to both candidates should be almost equal.”

A lot of people thought it would be close in the South. I feared a good lead for Mahinda Rajapaksha in the rural south. I told my friends that a 600,000-800,000 lead in the South by Mahinda cannot be offset by SF by the margins that he receives in Minority areas. I never expected a 1.8 million lead for him in the South. Some of it might have been rigged. We just don’t know and we will never know. But one thing is clear the rural south did come out strongly for him.

My vote

I voted in the Nallur electorate in the Jaffna electoral district and I did vote for General Sarath Fonseka. My early impression was that both candidates did not deserve my vote but I soon altered my stance. For me taking a decision to spoil the vote meant not believing in the system. The system is indeed fundamentally flawed but then if we can’t change things democratically, the only alternative is for change to be attempted violently. Most in this country are tired of losing lives and I am definitely one of them. So the option of not believing in the system was not open to me. It was just inconsequential. I also thought that it is not right to approach this elections standing from an ivory tower of personal conscience and die hard political philosophy and principle. Politics, including the act of voting, is about taking tough decisions. I did not have the energy for another MR presidency. I was convinced that a vote for anyone else but SF would in effect indirectly contribute to a MR Presidency. The unknown devil at least I thought would provide an opportunity to try something differently. If the SF presidency even by a fraction or a chance might have increased the collective opportunity of life over death of the Tamil community I thought it was my duty to vote for him. And hence I voted for Sarath Fonseka, despite his flaws, despite the vaguness vis a vis his position on the problems of the minorities, despite his anti-minority pronouncements in the past, despite his role in the war. I voted for him because it was the only strong way of showing my protest to the incumbent and because I believed in the political forces supporting him. It was an uncomfortable decision to take but I had no other option.

The voter turnout in Jaffna

Many have expressed concern about the ‘poor turnout’ in Jaffna. Some die hard SF supporters were annoyed with the turnout. Some Pro-LTTE and Anti- LTTE Tamil Diaspora sites who opposed TNA’s decision to support SF have called the low voter turnout a boycott. Some know-it-all types in the Diaspora have said that the Jaffna people are not interested in a democracy. Nothing can be more insulting.

The following are some reasons for the ‘low voter turnout’, in my opinion:

  1. 40% of registered voters are not in Jaffna. The 600,000 registered voters includes those migrated. Many Tamils in Colombo who moved from Jaffna have their vote in Jaffna – they are not registered in Colombo.
  2. Killinochchi low voting (Killinochchi is part of the Jaffna electoral district. Only 7% voting was recorded mainly because of the poor state of facilities provided for the IDPs to vote),
  3. Bomb scare in TNA strongholds on the day of the elections (example Nallur, Manipay),
  4. Internal displacement within Jaffna (From the Islands to the mainland. From Chavahacheri (Thenmarachchi) to Jaffna and other places). People possibly were not willing to travel 10-12 kilometers to vote.
  5. 80,000 people displaced by the High Security Zones (23,000 live in welfare centers and the rest with family and friends or have migrated).

The Chavahacheri, Udupiddy, Manipay, Vadukoddai, Thenmarachchi electorates in Jaffna recorded 30% voter turn out. This must be 60% of the actual residents. The Jaffna and Nallur electorates polled around 20%. The Jaffna peninsula average voter turnout should be in the high twenties and this must be at least 50% of the actual residents. If there had been no High Security Zones, internal displacement within Jaffna and proper voter registration this might have gone upto at least 60%. The 2010 turn out is the highest voter turn out ever in Jaffna in a Presidential election. The figures from the last election are:

2005 – 7.868 (1%) (Note: LTTE enforced a boycott)

1994 – 17,716 (2.97%) (Note: Jaffna was under LTTE control at this time)

1999 – 117,549 (19.18%) (Note: Killinochchi polled less than 4% – Was under LTTE control).

In 2010, 185,132 votes were polled with an average of 25%.

A comparison with the general election also shows us that this turn out is quite decent: In the 2004 General Elections Jaffna polled 300,000 votes (47%) the highest recorded in more than 20 years in election history. (I attended the only TNA rally in Jaffna on the 23rd of January in Sangilyan Thoppu, Nallur where R. Sampanthan of the TNA said that last time the margin for MR was less than 200,000 and the vote that TNA had received in the 2004 General Elections was 620,000. I thought at that time that comparing the turn out at General Elections was not good analysis). In the 2001 election around 200,000 votes were polled (30%). In 2000 around 130,000 votes were polled averaging at just over 20%. It must be remembered that in both 2001 and 2004 General Elections the TNA had the backing of the LTTE.

The voter turnout in the rest of the North and East

Batticaloa has polled a remarkably consistent 64% as in the last three presidential elections. Vavuniya polled 43% this time and voted in the 40s in 2005 and 1999. Trincomalee polled 65% and had polled in the 60s in the past three elections as well. Voter turn out in Mannar was 35%. It has been consistently in the 30s. In 2005 the turn out was 30%. None of these districts were affected by LTTE’s enforced boycott in 2005. Mullaitivu has recorded less than 4% in the past having been under LTTE control and this time recorded a 14%.

What is the message from the voter turn out in the North?

The message is that there are very serious issues to be addressed prime among them being the resettlement of IDPs. This includes both the Vanni IDPs and the Old IDPs. Demilitarisation is also key to a higher voter turn out.

What is the message from the people of the North and East at this election?

The ‘liberated’ have clearly registered their protest against their ‘liberator’. The vote in Killinochchi and Mullaitivu amongst all difficulties and however small were clearly against the President. All over the North and East this has vibrated. The Jaffna vote clearly rejects Mahinda Rajapaksha’s Chechnyan style local leader Douglas Devananda. I don’t know how Dayan Jayatilleke is going to still call him the Jaffna people’s choice. EPDP won only Kayts in the 10 electorates in the Jaffna peninsula that even by a 600 vote margin. Even in Jaffna and Nallur which make up by and large the Jaffna Municpal Council (which he supposedly won) he lost receiving only 27% and 21% of the votes. It is loud and clear from Jaffna that he is not wanted; his style of politics is not desired. (But he might do well in the general elections under an MR presidency. Patronage politics will help him for another six years). The East has similarly spoken very clearly rejecting MR’s Chechnyan style local leader V. Muralidharan alias Karuna Amman. Pillayan should be silently happy with the vote. Two years of centrally controlled pseudo-provincial council rule has been rejected by the people. (Here again the TNA might struggle at the General elections under a MR Presidency).

The vote shows a clearly divided country: 65% of the minorities (Tamils, Muslims, Up Country Tamils) preferring one candidate and more than 60% of the majority community preferring another. I do not know what else we need to show that we are far from being a united country. But the President does not seem like he wants to reflect on this message. To journalists who met him soon after the elections he has repeated the same story: “the IDPs are happy in the camps”. We are likely to see more of the same.

The way forward

I am afraid that the result might be taken negatively by the minorities and the opposition parties, that even if they come together that they cannot make an impact. But the minority parties should take the positive message – the possibility that this election gave/has given of collectively envisaging an agenda. The opposition parties have to resolve and work together to break the common sense philosophy in Sri Lanka that being in the opposition is useless. If our democratic culture is to be rejuvenated we need opposition parties to believe that an opposition can do credible work. Concrete action based on a concrete agenda that mobilizes the people has to be worked out. The minority parties have to show their communities that it is possible to serve them sitting in the opposition. A strong coalition between the TNA-SLMC-DPF is immediately possible. That should be a starter for a broader coalition of progressive forces. This Government is sure to continue to wage a war on the opposition with new force. It has to be resisted and fought back democratically. For that we need opposition leaders who believe in themselves.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Tamil Vote will be the Decider: A Myth

This piece written for and posted on Groundviews on 30 December was reproduced by the DailyMirror on 31 December

Two Tamil Dailies Thinakkural and Uthayan (Jaffna) carried yesterday (28 December) a headline report of retired Supreme Court Justice C.V. Wigneswaran’s opinion on whom the Tamils should vote for at Presidential elections. (Justice C. V Wigneswaran is a highly respected member of the Tamil intelligentsia and while on the Supreme Court was known to be extremely independent and forthright in his views. He was named by TNA as their nominee for membership in the Constitutional Council)

Though the report is filed in a manner as if though the newspapers contacted Justice Wigneswaran to get his response regarding rumours that some sections of the diaspora had contacted him about contesting at the presidential elections, the two reports are verbatim similar which probably means that Justice Wigneswaran himself wrote and sent the interview to be published to both these newspapers, on his own volition or possibly responding to a request from the TNA leadership.

In the interview he has said that certain individuals’ self centric actions (probably referring to Shivajilingam, Srikantha) have led to confusion among the Tamils. The following are translated excerpts from the ‘interview’:

“There is no point in voting for a Tamil candidate. Even if all Tamils vote for him we will achieve nothing. It is one of the two mainstream candidates who will win the elections. It will be the same if we boycott the elections. This will only display the desperate state of our politics or that we haven’t come to realise our democratic rights. So far Tamils have either voted for a Tamil candidate or boycotted presidential elections. This was to display the distinctiveness of the Tamil people’s politics. But now after the armed struggle has fallen silent this trend has to change. We have to be strategic. We have to see what we can get out of these two mainstream candidates. I am happy that the TNA is doing this. The TNA engaging in discussions with both candidates is productive. Tamil people should listen to the TNA leadership on this issue. The 22 parliamentarians speaking in different voices is no good. The TNA leadership should let the Tamil
people know of their decision soon. One thing is for sure if we vote for a Tamil candidate or boycott the election it would either mean alienating our democratic rights or supporting someone else [probably meaning voting for Shivajilingam being voting for MR]”.

He also refers in the interview to how the Upcountry Tamil leadership and the Muslims have used the ballot effectively in the past. Tamils have no option now but to take up this weapon he says. He also says that if the Tamils stand united we can decide which way the majority goes in the parliament at the next general election. He concludes: “Our differences will aid them. Our unity will aid us”

The Jaffna Uthayan which has for now long supported a vote for SF has written an editorial overjoyed with Wigneswaran’s public stance on the issue and have insisted other community leaders also come out publicly with a similar stance.

The All Ceylon Tamil Congress met in Jaffna yesterday to decide on whom to support and on Kajendrakumar Ponnambalam’s insistence they have voted on a resolution to boycott the elections. Former MP Vinyagamoorthy who is the President of the ACTC is not happy with the decision (he wants to use the vote to de-seat MR) but has gone with the resolution not wanting to challenge Ponnambalam. 4 MPs attached to the TNA are supposedly favouring a boycott – Kajendrakumar, Pathmini Sithamaparanathan, Solaman Cyril, and Kajendran, all being Jaffna MPs. They all are in Jaffna these days. They met with the Jaffna Bishop yesterday.

Earlier Shivajilingam also claimed support from seven TNA MPs for a Tamil candidate. One is not sure how many of these TNA MPs will support Shivajilingam as the Tamil candidate though. MP Shivashkthi Ananthan has come out accusing Shivajilingam of receiving money from Mahinda Rajapaksha to contest the elections.

I suspect that the TNA leadership (R. Sampanthan, Mavai Senathirajah, Suresh Premachandran and Selvam Adaikalanathan) might come out and ask the Tamil people to vote for “regime change” without naming Sarath Fonseka. In short the call will be for Tamils to cast a silent vote in favour of SF. One will have to wait and see how many Tamils feel like voting. I suspect that the voting numbers in the North will be small – small that they will not be able to influence the national vote significantly. The way Eastern Tamils vote is also very unclear. Pillayan is unlikely to come out strongly for MR or to inspire people to vote for SF. Karuna’s influence (unless he stuffs ballot boxes) is also not clear. For the Tamils to be the deciders in the election (like they could have been in the last) they have to vote as a whole to one candidate and the Sinhala votes to both candidates should be almost equal. I doubt whether the challenger to the incumbent can muster that many Sinhala votes to equal the incumbent’s or that the Tamils will vote significantly to one candidate despite their being a disguised call from the TNA to vote for Sarath Fonseka.

And finally what can a vote for SF achieve at all for the Tamil people? Tamil people’s ‘active engagement in national politics’- what will it lead to? Will SF devolve powers, dismantle the High Security Zones, repeal the PTA, revoke Emergency, resettle IDPs in places of their choice? Has he promised any of these? Or has MR promised any of these concretely? (Dayan Jayatilleka might say all of these are stupid/unintelligent demands. For him there is only one thing that will be intelligent for the Tamil people to do: Vote for MR.). Both candidates know well that making concrete promises on any of these will mean betraying the Sinhala nation. The TNA knows very well that none of them would even promise any of these or might just pay lip service to some of them. Hence my prediction that they will call for a silent vote.

Justice Wigneswaran is deeply anxious and nervous in his call for unity. It is going to be very difficult to bring TNA under one umbrella again. And that’s why, like the state of Muslims politics today, Tamils can never be King or Queen makers. The days of Ashroff and Thondaman are gone. And unless there is a change in the way South does politics even if you are a King maker, the Tamils will be disappointed once again as they were when their King maker Chelvanayagam was disappointed when the B-C and D-C pact were dishonoured.