10 October 2013

On (mis)reading election results

It is not hard to understand dismay at defeat.  It is also natural for the defeated to blame everyone else but themselves.  And so, when Harin Fernando, UNP MP, takes pot shots at the voters of the Wayamba and Central Provinces, eyebrows don’t get raised.  It is after all the utterings of a political neophyte which could result in the party faring even worse in these provinces next time around.  No harm to Harin, for he will contest from Badulla. 

It is also understandable when vicarious satisfaction is sought, in this instance by cheering the TNA’s victory in the Northern Province.  ‘Someone taught the Government a lesson!’ is easy to say and if that’s all the consolation the UNP can get and if that is consolation enough so be it. 

It is not just the Harins of the UNP that are trying to tag themselves to the TNA in order to drag themselves out of political despondency.  Just the other day, someone posted an interesting comment on Facebook: My respect for the Jaffna Tamils has increased since reading the memoirs of various Missionary Wives of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The Jaffna people had to put up with the people who wrote this stuff. It is so dead boring, filled with ruminations of the goodness of god and the wonders of the universe.’  This drew the following comment: My respect for the Jaffna Tamils increased after the PC elections’.  The commentator did not elaborate on the respect-reasons, but it is not hard to figure out. 
The post-election ‘analysis’ from the anti-Government lobby is full of ‘Harimisms’.  There was the usual tossing around of ‘military shadows’ in the North with random incidents gathered and called ‘tips of icebergs’ and other such exaggerations that’s par for the course for these politically and ideologically displaced commentators. 

The North, we are told, voted for ‘freedom’, for an un-clutching of totalitarianism, whereas in the other two provinces, if the voter is past being swayed by post-2009 terrorism-defeat-euphoria he/she is still prone to preying with goodies, cellphones, sarees and whatnot.  Well, if voting for a terrorist mouthpiece that is still to get the tiger out of its collective gut amounts to a vote for freedom, then the people of the North have pretty short memories.  What is more likely is that the TNA offered (for purely communal reasons) a better comfort-sense than the UPFA, which too fielded Tamils by the way.  Communalist and chauvinistic rhetoric does draw hurrahs but not from the majority.  The more ‘familiar’ in the North (for whatever reason) is the TNA, not the UPFA.  There was ‘rejection’ of course or at least a statement that development though necessary and appreciated is just not enough.  If there was ‘un-clutching of totalitarianism’, then the glorifier of totalitarianism, C.V. Wigneswaran wouldn’t have ended up securing the highest number of preferential votes. 

It’s about painting one’s political agenda (and resultant) dismay on a result and not reading the result for what it could be (and it could be many things, of course).  The Wayamba and Central Province voters are painted as a bunch of morons who didn’t know what’s good for them.   In Wayamba, at least, the candidate with the goodies got 200,000 less than the man who used the party network and who did the hard basics of going out to solicit votes.  That must say something.  More importantly, if un-shackling of any kind is desired, the question must be asked, ‘what were the options for these voters?’   Were these pundits wishing that they voted for some other party?  If so, which one? 

If the Northern voter is respected with no mention of voters in the other two provinces, it implies disrespect or less respect for the latter set.  What could these voters have done to earn the respects of these ladies and gentlemen?  The UNP?  The DNA? The JVP?  It boils down to political preferences then and immediately all the stories about democracy, unclutching of this and that becomes hogwash.   More seriously, it is patently arrogant to imply that those who helped produced an outcome not to one’s liking are stupid.  It is like saying ‘I know what’s best for you!’ 

People’s choices come out of a consideration of multiple factors.  We can talk about the political implications of outcomes, but if an election result is a punching bag to vent frustration on that’s not political commentary.  One might as well say ‘Damn! Damn! Damn!’