The jockeying for voters between the NPP/JVP and the SJB provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on the importance of ideology and identity for a political party.
As things stand, polling suggests while ex-SLPP voters are moving to other main parties, the greatest number have gone to the JVP.
A question that I’ve had since we had data for this trend in August 2022 is, why?
Simplistic answers include a shared and easily transferable nationalistic ideology, but if we are to think deeper about political strategy, we should be more sophisticated in our analysis. Given the lack of further data, much of what follows is subjective and speculative based on anecdotal evidence.
Imagine a world-view that sees the catastrophe of the GR government, not as a failure of populism (tax cuts etc), but as a failure of elites (Viyathmaga, military-style leadership, political families).
Framing the GR regime, the current government, and indeed the whole of Sri Lankan history, as a case of elite failure, allows the JVP can present themselves as engaging in a counter-hegemonic struggle in a manner the SJB cannot.
This also explains why they’ve been able to attract so much of the SLPP vote. The Rajapaksas, despite being a multi-generational political family, for a time were able to present themselves as fighting against an elite ruling class.
Because the SJB’s critique is limited — more / better technocracy to run the economy — and not societal-structural, they leave room for the NPP to assume a leadership role for those who perceive Sri Lanka’s failed status as a product of the ruling class.
The SJB, unable to detach itself of the ideologies & personalities inherited the UNP, does not seem to be convincing a decisive number of voters that it represents the break from the past that the moment requires.
Nuanced conversations about tax brackets may be good policy, but they don’t provide the ideological clarity that voters are looking for.
As I wrote previously,
- A mass organization that campaigns in the public sphere (e.g. a political party) needs to reflect the zeitgeist (or shape it).
- Without this, those it seeks to attract to its cause will not share in its objectives or world view.
The key question the party must ask itself is:
Do we have an easily understood and robust world view that our potential voters can relate to, and that explains the material circumstances of their lives?
One thought on “The SJB-JVP battle for votes”
Given that SL’s electorate is not fit for purpose, having voted for corrupt gangsters and misfits since independence, ‘an easily understood and robust world view that our potential voters can relate to’ could only be be a recipe for perpetuating our ‘democratic’ disaster…