By Nimesh Samarasinghe –
I had the privilege of spending two weeks in Sri Lanka on holiday in the course of July. Contemplating that a parliamentary election is looming, I took every single opportunity to speak to ordinary men and women from different backgrounds both in and outdoors Colombo, so as to recognize the realities of regional politics at ground level. As ‘very good governance’ had been a buzz word during the current presidential election, I was especially interested in understanding the correlation of this term with the election of sincere candidates, as opposed to corrupt ones. Although some folks had been in a position to make clear distinctions amongst excellent governance and corruption, other individuals saw a fine line between the two.
The war against ‘corruption’ and the fight for ‘good governance’ have been mantras of the UNP-led opposition coalition that supported the election of the presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena on 8th January 2015. It was a successful campaign that denied Mahinda Rajapaksa a third term in executive office. Maithripala Sirisena’s election campaign had highlighted the alleged corruption, lawlessness and nepotism levelled against the Rajapaksa administration, and it’s resultant failure to provide the benefits of brisk economic growth to the majority of voters.
This parliamentary election campaign is now at its peak, and the usual ‘politicking’ by parties and candidates concerned will quickly come to a closure. Appreciating that circumstances are diverse when it comes to voter behavior throughout presidential and common elections, the focus of this write-up will be on voter behavior when electing honest or corrupt political parties and their candidates at the upcoming parliamentary election. My views are grounded in political, policy and social science investigation performed in numerous components of the globe and of course some of my views on voter turnout, and the most likely outcome of the forthcoming general election.
Information on corrupt politicians
There is excellent proof indicating that a true or perceived lack of data by voters may possibly reward corrupt politicians due to the inability to distinguish in between clean and corrupt politicians. This association seems to stem each from very informed voters’ higher understanding and far better understanding of incumbents’ involvement in corruption. Throughout the not too long ago concluded Sri Lankan presidential election, social media played an outstanding role in electing the existing president. Social media informed voters about alleged corruption and nepotism inside the Rajapaksa regime and emphasised the need for very good governance and a adjust in the administration. Contemplating that Sri Lanka is moving towards a digital age at a quick pace, it was a sensible move for the UNP-led coalition to use far more of social media throughout their presidential election campaign, moving away from election posters and cutouts. It was an election exactly where the energy of social media was clearly demonstrated as a campaign tool in bringing down a government for the very first time in Sri Lanka. It is not surprising that majority of those standing for parliamentary elections are attempting to utilise social media to its full possible in their fight for the preferential vote and to expose corrupt parties and candidates. Nevertheless, in terms of informing the public about candidates’ wrongdoings, there exist limitations in terms of its reach to the villages in Sri Lanka. We see the standard strategies of communication and community participatory approaches at play to make sure reach of these messages to the grassroots. A single could argue that today’s average voter in Sri Lanka is far better informed about corrupt politicians and the parties they represent than ever ahead of. Even so, is details alone on corruption adequate for the voter to make a decision on picking a candidate or a party?
Goodies in exchange for votes
The subsequent contention or the question that I would like to talk about is whether or not voters are ready to elect corrupt politicians, even when they are informed about their incorrect doings?
Study carried out in some Latin American nations suggests that voters may elect corrupt candidates despite becoming advised of their wrongdoings. Although the majority of voters would favor to hold politicians accountable for corruption, they do not often engage in preventing this misbehaviour, especially when politicians are able to reward their voters with public goods, patronage jobs and material benefits that other political parties or candidates do not, or can not assure. We have witnessed the offer of material goods in exchange for votes in Sri Lanka over the last handful of decades and this seems to be widespread in creating democracies.
Each the UNF and the UPFA are promising economic improvement, good governance and the prevention of corruption in their manifestos. The UPFA is offering the public immense rewards, some of which are unrealistic. For instance, the UPFA has gone on record by promising a minimum salary of Rs 25,000 for public sector workers and a Rs 200,000 ‘marriage bonanza’ for couples ending up in matrimony. I will let the reader choose if they are realistic when contemplating the UPFA’s track record on public spending. Interestingly, some people whom I spoke to in the course of my travels in Sri Lanka stated that they had happily accepted material goods from the Rajapakse strongmen during the final presidential campaign, but had voted for the opposition candidate. According to the literature on redistributive politics, politicians could advantage from targeting non-aligned or these not devoted to a celebration when supplying ‘goods’ to people and groups in exchange for votes.
In terms of the forthcoming parliamentary election, the evaluation of the final outcome will inform us if voters have rewarded corrupt politicians in exchange for goodies received. Voting for a corrupt celebration or a candidate is not restricted to accessing info on corruption and the delivery of public goods in exchange for votes.
Corruption and ideology
Ideology is one more critical issue that can strongly predict voting for a corrupt candidate. I am referring to voters in search of to best match their individual ideological preferences with a political celebration and candidate contesting the election. I am confident that most of us can uncover at least 1 pal or a relative who is a die-hard or staunch UNP, SLFP or JVP supporter in spite of knowledge of corruption. According to study, ideological self-identification is one of the strongest and most consistent predictors of electing your preferred candidate or party. Even so, what are the consequences when the ideologically preferred celebration or candidate is corrupt?
There arises a circumstance where voters are confronted with a moral dilemma when they have to decide on amongst honesty and ideology. Some study suggests that, in the context of possessing much less decision for the voter on credible political parties, voters might assistance corrupt parties and their candidates when they mirror their ideological political preferences. Furthermore, some voters might have robust loyalties to particular politicians or parties such that their vision is clouded and permits a type of ‘cognitive dissonance’ to arise- a psychological theory whereby conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviours are held.
‘Nationalism’, as a political ideology cannot be ignored when analyzing voter behavior at the next election. Some writers argue that the former president’s government was the initial to totally embrace Buddhist nationalist ideology. It’s appeal was to southern voters, as he was regarded as the leader who won the separatist war. In parallel, the creation of a worry- psychosis more than any revival of the LTTE, exactly where the country may possibly be at danger again of separatism is propagated by the UPFA campaign in a manner that corruption could be ignored in the interest of the nation and nationalism. Though, this is supposed to impress, a section of Sinhala Buddhist voters ignored this notion and voted against Mahinda Rajapaksa at the final election.
Tolerating a corrupt party, rather than voting for an option celebration whose ideology is contrary to their personal, would be difficult to the voter on 17th August. Conversely, the JVP has emerged as a strong third force despite the unfavorable image suffered due to its association with violent activism in the early 1970s and late 1980s. The JVP is equally supportive of very good governance, exposing and informing the public about corrupt politicians and their wrongdoings at an unprecedented scale. With the inclusion of JVP as a third force and a reasonable party alternative, we are yet to see if ‘ideology’ will play a more or less considerable part in electing corrupt candidates at the subsequent election.
Yet another area that needs exploration is voter preparedness to either switch parties or remain at home in the face of their ideologically preferred party becoming involved in a corruption scandal.
Perceptions and experiences of corruption erode voter confidence in public institutions and the political program. If voters perceive data about corruption as damaging advertising, then such data has the prospective to weaken voters’ self-confidence in their potential to influence very good governance. This might lead voters to think that voting will not advantage them and there is a strong possibility that voter turnout will lower and erode partisan attachments.
The recent political circus exactly where members of parliament switched from one particular party to an additional cannot be forgotten when analyzing ideological preferences and voter turnout. Prominent politicians such as Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Ven. Athuraliya Rathana, M.K.D.S Gunarawdena, Arjuna Ranatunga and numerous other ex-members of parliament and Pradeshiya Sabha members crossed over from the UPFA to the UNF. Some of them had been staunch supporters of nationalism in Rajapaksa’s previous government. It was their prerogative to dissociate themselves from the alleged corrupt politicians who received nominations to contest the election from the UPFA. Even Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, the previous President and chairman of the SLFP appears to be supporting the UNF campaign. According to her, the forthcoming election is not about party politics, it is merely a matter of deciding on excellent or negative politicians.
With a frequent quantity of political cross overs, specially by a voter’s preferred candidate, there would seem to be a sheer amount of confusion and disillusion for the voter to deal with. Earlier work suggests that perceptions and experiences of corruption undermines voters’ confidence in public institutions, erodes the legitimacy of the political method, reduces trust in politicians and lower voters’ confidence in their government’s ability. This may possibly either send a robust signal by ‘abstention’ at the election or improve the so-called floating vote base.
In conclusion, corrupt politicians and parties will lose support at the next parliamentary election. Despite the fact that this can be less than a single would anticipate and a lot more frequently than not with only limited consequences for remaining in office for some alleged corrupt politicians. The UPFA is contesting this election without unlimited state sources (such as state media and the capability to mobilise state institutions) to counteract adverse campaigning against it. The prime minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe’s reputation is at an all-time high and although it could be premature to state, the UNP appears to have united given that the January polls. There is disharmony among UPFA strongmen as they try to dissociate between clean and corrupt candidates within their personal celebration. President Maithripala Sirisena also seems to covertly help the UNF.
With the announcement of election benefits on 18th August, the UNF is probably to win a lot more seats in parliament than the UPFA. We are also likely to see some alleged corrupt politicians being rejected by the public and other folks elected into parliament with significantly less preferential votes than the preceding 2010 election. The JVP will also ring alarm bells, emerging as the third force.
Ultimately, it is well recognized that corruption is linked with significantly less economic development, higher inequality, poor outcomes in the areas of overall health and environment, mistrust and a discontented population. Use your franchise wisely when electing your representatives to the 15th parliament of Sri Lanka.
*Nimesh Samarasinghe [PhDc (London), MSc (London), BSc (Hons) (London), DipHE (London)] has over 15 years of knowledge functioning in the British National Overall health Service in clinical, managerial and commissioning roles. He is at the moment operating as a Consultant, assisting the State of Qatar to reform their overall health solutions. The author also has comprehensive encounter in wellness and social care and public policy-generating research.