Sanders drops 2020 bid, leaving Biden as likely nominee    Egypt's parliament postpones plenary meetings until 29 April    UK PM Johnson is stable in hospital, responding to treatment: Spokesman    Economic reform programme allowed Egypt to bear repercussions of coronavirus: PM    Masked crowds fill streets, trains after Wuhan lockdown ends    Germany moves to make it easier to block foreign takeovers    Eastern Libya confirms first coronavirus case    PSG launch crowdfunding platform to fight coronavirus    Egypt approves first issuance of sukuk by Talaat Mostafa subsidiary    Tottenham tell players to follow social distancing rules    Brazilian star Ronaldinho to be freed from Paraguayan jail into house arrest    Euro zone fails to reach a deal on new coronavirus stimulus    Ethiopia declares state of emergency to curb spread of COVID-19    Egypt launches mobile application to track coronavirus cases    The veil begins to lift on COVID-19: What we know so far    Facebook launches new chat app for couples    Amazon to suspend delivery service to compete with UPS, FedEx in U.S.    Egypt's net foreign reserves fall to $40.1 bln in March –    EgyptAir to operate special flight to Canada Wednesday    Madbouly orders continued work of factories, firms to meet Egyptians' needs    Egypt quarantines Giza village for 2 weeks due to coronavirus    The Minister of Culture launches the electronic initiative "Stay at Home: Culture in Your Hands" on the Internet    Stay at home and TAM gallery will bring art to you    MPs' work continues    Egypt's Awqaf Ministry halts religious activities during Ramadan    The golden age of Egyptian cinema    EFA to raise funds for players in lower divisions amid coronavirus    Egyptian Fine Arts Syndicate organises exhibition to help artists amid coronavirus    Egypt's swimmer Osman quarantined in Red Sea resort after returning from US    Egypt's Zamalek to extend Carteron's contract after end of coronavirus    Comedy puppet Abla Fahita returns to screens during Egypt's curfew    Egypt's Supreme Council of Culture launches three new competitions    Prosecution warns of EGP 300k fine or 2-year jail for spreading fake coronavirus news    Egypt, MENA growth forecast at 2.7%, -0.3% respectively: IIF    Al-Sisi discusses joint coronavirus efforts with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince    Saudi Arabia intercepts missiles over Riyadh    CBE temporarily regulates cash deposits, withdrawals    Lagging COVID-19 response to shield frail economy: Rouhani    Farwell to Egyptian comedian George Sidhom    Weekend's virtual concerts, plays, and festivals people can stream at home    Brazilian football stadiums transformed into hospitals to treat coronavirus patients    Amid coronavirus outbreak, Egyptian Premier League cancellation seems inevitable    Stay At Home: Ministry of Culture to publish free books online for public browsing    Ethiopia has not sent Egypt latest designs for GERD: Minister of Irrigation    Nigerien President hails Egypt's diplomatic attempts to reach agreement over GERD    Al-Sisi appreciates Kenya's support to Egypt's stance on GERD    Cairo court acquits Mubarak's sons of stock market manipulation    Egypt's President Sisi pardons some prisoners on 25 Jan. Revolution anniversary    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Sri Lanka's nice-guy president channels his inner Machiavelli
Published in Ahram Online on 21 - 08 - 2015

A betting man would have demanded long odds a year ago on Sri Lanka completing a peaceful transition of power after years of international isolation under the authoritarian leader who brought a bloody end to the country's civil war.
But in Monday's parliamentary elections, the bespectacled Maithripala Sirisena, who came from nowhere to win the presidency in January, confounded the doubters, thwarting a comeback by predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa, a civil war hero to many Sri Lankans but war criminal to others.
Rajapaksa, who changed the constitution in a bid to retain power in the Indian Ocean island of 21 million, had set his sights on becoming premier of a government led by his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
But the unassuming Sirisena, who started out as a "positive fluke" selected by the broad-based civic movement that campaigned to end the Rajapaksa era, has surprised even close aides with a Machiavellian ability to win with a weak hand.
It was only on election day that Sirisena, who had succeeded Rajapaksa as SLFP leader, purged Rajapaksa loyalists who controlled the party's executive and for months had refused to bend to his will.
"Civilised politics is a blend," a senior Sirisena adviser told Reuters. "If you don't use certain high-handed tactics, you cannot survive."
Armed with a strong mandate for a coalition headed by Ranil Wickremesinghe and his United National Party (UNP), Sirisena should now be able to push through reforms to open up government and simplify Sri Lanka's complex election rules.
Minority Tamils and Muslims have rallied behind the coalition.
Defeat for Rajapaksa will keep Sri Lanka on a non-aligned foreign policy course and loosen its ties with China, which during his rule pumped in billions of dollars to turn the island into a maritime outpost.
As recently as last month, warning lights were flashing that Sirisena lacked the nerve to stop Rajapaksa capitalising on the parliamentary vote, which the 63-year-old president had called early to seek a stronger mandate for reform.
"There was a lot of worry that Mahinda was an unstoppable force," said Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka analyst at the International Crisis Group.
But, in a July 14 speech, Sirisena vowed not to name Rajapaksa prime minister, even if the SLFP won. "That speech by Sirisena was able to turn the tide," said Keenan.
Although Wickremesinghe's UNP won by a margin of only 3 percent, Sirisena's rejection of Rajapaksa may have been enough to sway the result.
"If the president is saying he is not going to name your guy prime minister, why would you go out and vote?" said one Western diplomat.
Sirisena's presidency began inauspiciously; having walked out of Rajapaksa's government to run against him, he was forced into 'cohabiting' with a UNP minority government that controlled just a third of seats in parliament.
He managed to secure the passage of a constitutional amendment to weaken the powers of an executive presidency he believes enabled the excesses of the Rajapaksa era, but other reforms stalled. Corruption probes against two of Rajapaksa's brothers, who together had controlled 70 percent of the budget, went nowhere.
But, all the while, Sirisena was seeking to broaden support at home and abroad, courting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
"Sirisena went out there and built those relationships," another diplomat said. "He took Sri Lanka out of isolation."
That should set the stage for a discussion on how Sri Lanka can come to terms with the legacy of its 26-year civil war, which ended when Rajapaksa crushed Tamil insurgents in 2009 in an offensive the United Nations estimates killed 40,000.
A U.N. war crimes report is due ahead of talks in Geneva next month where Sri Lanka should commit to prosecuting perpetrators and establish some form of truth and reconciliation process under international scrutiny.
While these talks will be difficult under Sirisena, who has made tentative steps towards reconciliation, they would have been unthinkable before. In his campaign, Rajapaksa urged voters to oppose those who "would divide this country and take us to court in Geneva".
Rajapaksa and his inner circle may have more to fear from domestic prosecution in a series of criminal probes that sources say are likely to be stepped up. He and his family deny any wrongdoing.
Sirisena's political machinations may, however, test the SLFP to breaking point. Rajapaksa, 69, has ruled out retirement, increasing the risk of a more abrupt political realignment, or even a party split.
"Some MPs will recognise that the Rajapaksas are running helter-skelter under corruption allegations," said a senior government minister. "They will realise where the power is - with Maithripala Sirisena."

Clic here to read the story from its source.