Having been ousted as the President of Sri Lanka by Maithripala Sirisena during the Presidential elections this year, Mahinda Rajapaksa is back to give his opponents a tough fight during the Prime Ministrial elections in Sri Lanka.
President Sirisena, ex-health minister under the Rajapaksa government, who now leads the party has threatened to veto against him.
A leader, a hero
Despite drawing the ire of the Tamil groups in Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa is considered a hero by many of Sri Lanka's Sinhala-speaking Buddhist majority for crushing a 26-year Tamil uprising in 2009. However, his opponents accuse him of corruption, brutality and an autocratic rule. Something that he denies.
The ethnic fight between the majority Sinhalese and Tamil clans led to a long-drawn civil war for 25 years that came to an end in 2009.
Not an easy journey
Sri Lanka is a President-ruled state where he is the head of the Cabinet and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, is the member of the Cabinet and is appointed by the President from among the Parliamentarians. With Sirisena as the head, the journey would not be easy for Rajapaksa.
But till now, he is playing all the right cards. Rajapaksa is in talks with Sirisena, according to the local media, to reunite Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and declare Rajapaksa as the Prime Ministerial candidate. Simultaneously, he is also forming his own electoral alliances with the belief that the huge vote bank that the winning party has are his own and that he could win even if he contested independently.
During the presidential elections, there was an evident rift in the party whe Sirisena parted ways and chose to fight as a representative of all the parties opposing the SLFP. The divide is still there and talks are going on between the two groups to decide whether Rajapaksa should be brought back. Rajapaksa, emanwhile is appealing to his Sinhalese supporters to take pride in the victiry against the LTTE and the 'development' during his governance.'
No doubt, his ideologies are supported by the Buddhist Sinhalas and the fundamentalists.
Not alone in the poll fray
Rajapaksa may have a tough time, but there are even chances for him to win as he is being backed by four political parties-Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna or National Freedom Front, the Democratic Left Front and the relatively new and smaller party Pivithiru Hela Urumaya. The main factors cited by the local media that can lead to his possible victory are:
1. The Sinhala Buddhist families sympathise with Rajapaksa after the Basil and Gotabaya Rajapaksa cases. People now feel that the cases have been got up to target the Rajapaksa family.
2. People are disappointed with the government at the Centre as it is considered weak and unable to run the country
3. The Sri Lankan economy is acting as a mirror. With declining currency valuation and rise in unemployment, people feel that Rajapaksa was a better administrator.
And as far as the war crimes are concerned, if the UN report is released before the elections, all the votes will go to Rajapaksa's advantage.
To get a vague idea of the political strength of Rajapaksa, it is important to analyse the demographics of the country. The Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Tamils are the two major ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. According to the world population review, the Sinhalese make up around 75% of the total population and are concentrated in the central and southwestern parts of the country.
The Tamils make up around 11.9% of the total population and are thus the largest minority present in the country.