Monday, May 2, 2016

Sri Lanka's political numbers game at May Day

ECONOMYNEXT -  Sri Lanka's political parties used this year's May Day rallies to demonstrate their strength in a spirited contest to woo audiences, but the real winner appears to be the state Transport Board (SLTB).

Unlike in previous years, the state-run bus giant chartered some 3,800 busses for political rallies and all had to pay up front at commercial rates.

"If May Day is celebrated on the first of every month, the SLTB will return to profit within a year," a news editor who was monitoring all May Day rallies across the country told Economynext.

There are no reliable estimates for the number of people at the respective rallies of the rival parties and factions, but unofficial police estimates are about the closest, yet with a bias towards the ruling parties.

According to these unofficial estimates, the ruling UNP had the biggest crowd of 80,000 at their Campbell Park rally, while 40,000 turned up at the Sri Lanka Freedom Party show headed by President Maithripala Sirisena at Galle.

The Kirulapone rally led by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa had 32,000, while the JVP saw 17,000 show up.

Journalists covering the rallies thought there were more people at the Kirulapone rally, but what is more important is that according to police estimates the numbers had grown at Rajapaksa's rally compared to their Hyde Park show recently.

"You don't have to believe the absolute numbers, but what they show is an increase in support for the Rajapaksa faction of the SLFP," a police source said.

The UNP by far outperformed the JVP in creative exhibits at their rally, but some of the vehicles used were clearly state property. One of the exhibits was built on a truck belonging to Sri Lanka Tourism. No wonder Sri Lanka is a land like no other.

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