Maithripala Sirisena’s sensible election strategy

Stuck between the charisma and clearly defined ethno-nationalism of the Rajapaksas, and an invigorated UNP vote base, Pres. Sirisena did not have much room to define his and the SLFP’s agenda for the upcoming local government elections and for the future.

He seems to have chosen an agenda that is a culturally conservative (across ethnic lines)

and to place himself as the bulwark between two types of corruption – the nepotistic corruption of the Rajapaksas and the elitist corruption of the UNP (දූෂිත ප්‍රභුන්ගේ සංධානය).

He’s even linked the two

 “Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was not in parliament to vote for the no confidence motion brought in against former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake. The former President had said that he did not bring a no confidence motion against Karunanayake.”

Without access to polling data, I have no idea if this is a successful strategy, but it does seem to me to be the best option available to him to carve an identity for his wing of the SLFP.

Vegan Marketing & a fight in the Sri Lankan parliament

A vegan friend sent me a link to this article, with the comment that this shows how moral activism can work. We frequently debate the tactical effectiveness of making the vegan lifestyle a primarily moral issue is in converting meat eaters.

Aside from pointing out the irony of sending me a link to an NRA site, my reply to him is below (lightly edited for clarity):

Hunting is a terrible analogy for veganism. Unlike consuming meat, it’s an activity that is very remote to most people in the west (I suspect something that mostly the wealthy or rural people do). The opportunity cost of being anti-hunting is minimal. It is something your average American or Brit has little connection to and is culturally remote. They don’t feel bad about condemning hunting because they aren’t condemning themselves.

What I would suggest as a tactic is a mix of moral persuasion and making veganism an attractive lifestyle choice for health, taste and convenience. There’s a behavioural economics theory called prospect theory. That postulates that “People make decisions based on the potential value of losses and gains rather than the final outcome.” & “losses and gains are valued differently, and thus users make decisions based on perceived gains instead of perceived losses.”

Right now, IMO, the marketing from radical fundamentalist vegans is not doing a good job of showing the perceived gains (because they are wholly focused on the moral dimension) in comparison to the perceived losses.

I wrote a bit about prospect theory in a political context here

This latest farce in the Sri Lankan Parliament reflects well on no-one. However, I can help but feel that the anti-government faction missed a trick here. They should have let the Prime Minister make his speech. Every time he has to address the issue, he associates his brand with it. Instead, the discourse has shifted to parliamentary behaviour.

The reason for this conduct is obvious to me:

  • A defining characteristic of those MPs is their sycophantic behaviour to Mahinda Rajapaksa. Grandstanding behaviour as seen in the video is part of that — children clamouring to be noticed.
  • They are playing to their base who have no interest in seeing an actual debate. However, this is a very short-sighted move, as such behaviour is off-putting for undecided and swing voters.