Seize The Election To Secure It: ‘A Democratic Revolution By Force’

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

“…to recognize no means of carrying out these objects other than a democratic revolution by force.” ~ Friedrich Engels, Letter to the Communist Correspondence Committee in Brussels, Paris, 23rd October 1846

Classical Leninism called it ‘parliamentary cretinism’. My updated variant is ‘electoral narcissism’. That is the malady the various currents of the mainstream Opposition are suffering from. They gaze at themselves in the pond or the mirror and see a glorified image of the votes and seats they will get at the next election. 

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In other words, they are fixated by their future electoral performance when they should be focusing instead in securing the elections that they are hoping to compete in. 

Why count your chickens before they are hatched, when a snake is slithering into the chicken-coop with every intention of swallowing the eggs? 

There is every piece of circumstantial evidence that the Government is hoping to delete or delay the national elections scheduled for exactly one year from now. Instead of banding together to ensure that elections will be held on schedule, starting with the earliest, the Opposition parties are building castles in the air about the power they will win and posts they will hold at an election they may never have. 

Political Jataka Story

The Opposition reminds me of the Jataka Tale about the lass who was walking to the bazaar to sell the fine pot of curd she was balancing upon her head. She was day dreaming about what she would do with the money, and thought of how she would proudly reject this or that suitor from among those who would doubtless besiege her when she was wealthy from the sale of the curd. 

She gave a contemptuous toss of her head to act out her rejection and as a result the pot of curd she was balancing, fell, broke and was utterly ruined. 

That could be the fate of the Opposition parties who do not adhere to the admonitory advice that our parents used to give us when we were kids: “First things first!”

The first thing is to smash the subterfuge of the Ranil regime to defer national elections as Ranil did to the Provincial Councils when he was PM in the Yahapalanaya government: snarl it up in so-called electoral reforms. 

The next thing is to shatter the other Ranilist plot of a ‘new Constitution’ which abolishes the executive Presidency.

All the Opposition has to do is to point out that the regime has no legitimacy whatsoever to do anything other than hold the national elections according to existing Constitution.

This government has no legitimacy for two reasons:

* The President was not elected by the people, and indeed was not elected even to the legislature. 

* The ruling party the SLPP was elected on a clear mandate which it has clearly abandoned while defecting to the Ranilist mandate it stood against at least since the Presidential election of 1999. 

* In short, the President never had a popular mandate and the ruling party did but forfeited it. Therefore, the administration as a whole, lacks a popular mandate and popular legitimacy. 

 Any ‘reform’ that emanates from this administration is therefore ‘poisoned fruit’.


The front-running Opposition party, the JVP-NPP should not get itself caught in a cleft stick between its stand in favour of the abolition of the executive presidency and its imperative need to block any further delay in the holding of elections. 

All the JVP-NPP needs to say is that now, when there is a chance of a progressive, pro-people, left-oriented leader and government, the political establishment is trying to abolish the Presidency and thereby the presidential election. This should not be allowed. 

A new President and Parliament, indeed new Provincial Councils as well, should deliberate on a progressive new Constitution—and not allow this rotting, zombie President and SLPP Government to tamper with Constitutional and/or electoral reform.   

In the Marxist-Leninist lexicon that Anura Kumara Dissanayake and the JVP are familiar with, there is a transgression known as ‘skipping stages’. You are supposed to understand that you can’t do everything at one go and that each stage or phase (if you prefer) has its own ‘main task’. The relevant stage is complete if you complete for the most part, that main task. You can carry over the secondary tasks of that stage, to the next one. In the leftist lexicon this is known as uninterrupted revolution by stages. 

This means the process is uninterrupted, but has its different interconnected stages. 

Anura and the JVP-NPP are ‘skipping stages’. The current stage is one defined by the main task of ensuring, securing, obtaining a national election on schedule from an establishment which is determined not to transfer governmental and state power either to the Left (AKD-JVP-NPP) or to a Centrist-Populist dissident from within its ranks (Premadasa). Of course, Anura is not willing to admit the latter factor, but that’s irrelevant here. 

How does Anura hope to secure a Presidential election or a Parliamentary election at the same time as the presidential should have been in case it is abolished? 

He has an answer which puzzles me. He says the JVP-NPP will move an amendment that if the executive presidency is to be abolished, it cannot be for the purpose of postponing an election by abolition—and therefore the parliamentary election will have to be held on exactly the same day as the abolition. 

Now this seems even more of a maze than AKD’s bete noire Kumar Gunaratnam’s roadmap to participatory democracy!  

It will also be a contribution to Marxist political theory and strategy: since when was a dictatorial drive of a bourgeois ruler/regime thwarted by moving an amendment to the regime’s legislation? This is ‘parliamentary cretinism’ taken to an extreme. 

Seize the Election

If Anura or Sajith really wish to lead the country they will have to realize very quickly that not everything can be achieved by trying to out-talk or outwit Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

Ranil’s main ally of the moment isn’t Basil Rajapaksa as much as it is General Kamal Gunaratne and the Gotabaya militarists.

If a Presidential election is to obtained this time next year, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Kamal Gunaratne will have to be politically and socially OUTFOUGHT.

A Presidential election this time next year can be secured and a democratic transition ensured only by removing the option of cancellation/postponement from the Ranil regime. This can be done only by bringing such massive and irresistible pressure to bear on the regime, inexorably pinning its back to the wall, so that the sole option available to it is the holding of the earliest possible national election on schedule, i.e., Presidential election 2024. 

Ranil Wickremesinghe and his trigger-happy securocrats must be made to realize that the holding of the scheduled democratic election and peacefully transferring power is the sole guarantee of survival. That’s very different proposition from moving an amendment in the legislature. The election must be seized! That will require, in the words of Friedrich Engels, “a democratic revolution by force” (1846).