Amidst so many stories about the ever – exciting twists and turns in the crisis faced by our Government, we seem to ignore so many other significant political questions. One such question is: what is happening in Sri Lanka’s political parties? As visible from the unfolding power struggles, Sri Lanka’s two main parties – the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) – are in crisis, awaiting a re-invention for their survival. Meanwhile, a new party — Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) – has emerged, posing a serious existential threat to the SLFP and even showing signs of becoming the next ruling party, pushing the SLFP into a new phase of survival challenge.
Political parties are the main players in the game of democracy. Since parliamentary democracy is the only political game in town, changes within and in the relations among political parties have a tendency to redefine the nature of democratic politics as well. While Sri Lanka is in a phase of transition, so are the political parties. The parties are thus facing a new set of challenges, for both survival and transition. As the turbulent events during the past few weeks amply demonstrated, it is now testing time for the country’s political parties.
Let us begin with the uncertainties the UNP is facing in a time of transition.