IF the president loses the election will he peacefully give up power? Become an elder statesmanship on a pension of a sub 100,000 rupee salary? Will his family walk away from their control/influence over large parts of the economy and government? Would the defence secretary go quietly into life as a private citizen? I doubt it and I think I’m not alone. Is it better he wins decisively?
Until recently, such questions seemed irrelevant. Now regime change has acquired a whiff of possibility. Making such questions the elephant in the room of the election. Terrifying stuff for the ruling family and their retainers. They have too much to lose beyond mere wealth and power. Will they give it all up because faceless voters say so ?
This possibility also raises all sorts of other nightmares. History doesn’t seem to offer much comfort. I can’t think of a time when an “authoritarian” Sri Lankan leader handed over power peacefully to a new one from the opposition. May be Mrs B in 1979? Or D.B Wijetunga perhaps? In all other cases a powerful leader has either been killed (R Premadasa) or handed over power to a successor within his/her party (J.R Jayawardene, CBK).
So IF the current president loses it will be an unprecedented event (pun partially intended). The incoming regime will have their knives out to snuff as many enemies as it can. That is the way it is in any feudal society when a king falls.
The opposition also faces uncertain fates. IF the challenger to the throne is not a plant, his fate will be grim. General Fonseka paid the price. Victorious kings of old made examples those who dared to reach for the crown. In these civilised time there are plenty of recorded sins in any political life. Enough for a very public punishment. All inducements to try a dash of Arab Spring. Clog the street. Blame a narrow defeat as electoral fraud. Then try to bring down the palace. The government won’t be easily cowed. No Sri Lankan government has been overthrown by a revolt. It will respond in the usual way. I hope Weliweriya was not a template of horrors to come.
After all, with stakes that high what politician would leave the outcome of the election to voters? Every politically useful tentacle will be uncoiled. Yet I feel that both sides cannot afford an Uva like victory. They have to crush the other decisively. A weak victory creates a weak ruler. Setting the table for another grab for the crown.
Will the king dig in his heels in the event of a narrow defeat? Will the opposition howling election fraud, flood the street if they suffer the same? Push will come to shove. Then fisticuffs. Inevitably the usually business of never knowing who fired the first shots. At this point the nightmare gets too frightening for thought.
I hope I am wrong. Perhaps the election will resolve everything peacefully. A winner with a clear mandate (despite the traditional election fraud). A gracious loser. Reprisals and revenge put aside in the name of reconciliation and moving on. What ever the result, things cannot go back to what they were. Will the post election changes be non-violent? Or at least nothing beyond the usual election brutalities? It is unwise to hope for anything more.