United People's Freedom Alliance

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United People's Freedom Alliance
එක්සත් ජනතා නිදහස් සන්ධානය
ஐக்கிய மக்கள் சுதந்திரக் கூட்டணி
Abbreviation UPFA
Leader Maithripala Sirisena
Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera
Founder Chandrika Kumaratunga
Founded January 20, 2004; 13 years ago (2004-01-20)
Headquarters 301 T. B. Jayah Mawatha, Colombo 10, Sri Lanka
Youth wing

Nidahas Tharuna Peramuna
(formerly the Sri Lanka Freedom Party Youth Federation)

Nil Balakaya (dissolved)
Ideology Democratic socialism
Political position Centre-left to left-wing
Parliament of Sri Lanka
95 / 225
Election symbol
Betel Leaf
Upfa.png

The United People's Freedom Alliance, often abbreviated as UPFA (Sinhalese: එක්සත් ජනතා නිදහස් සන්ධානය Eksath Janathā Nidahas Sandānaya, Tamil: ஐக்கிய மக்கள் சுதந்திரக் கூட்டணி), is a political alliance in Sri Lanka founded by former Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga in 2004. The alliance has been led by its senior partner, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, and enjoyed a majority in the Sri Lankan parliament between 2004 and 2015 under both Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapakse. The 2015 parliamentary elections saw the alliance undergo a split, with loyalists of the Sirisena faction forming a coalition government with the United National Party. The alliance is generally regarded as being representative of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism.[1][2]

The current leader of the UPFA is Maithripala Sirisena, with Mahinda Amaraweera functioning as general secretary.[3][4][5][6]

History

The United People's Freedom Alliance was born out of a memorandum of understanding signed by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in 2004. The agreement was the result of a year's negotiations between the two parties, and broadly outlined common goals in the areas of the economy, ethnic harmony, democracy, culture, and foreign policy, areas in which the two parties shared common disagreements with the ruling United National Party (UNP)-led United National Front in power at the time.[7] The agreement did not go into specifics on how differences between the two parties would be resolved, particularly in the area of their differing visions of the solution to the country's ethnic problem.[7] Fundamentally, the memorandum was used as a coalition declaration for the upcoming parliamentary elections, and was a revisiting of the unsuccessful coalition attempt before the 2001 parliamentary elections.[8] The coalition was, in effect, an attempt to oust the ruling UNP based on negative public opinion on its handling of the Sri Lankan Civil War, both in terms of its approach to negotiating with the LTTE and a perceived free hand given to Western interference in the country's democracy through the Norwegian-led peace process.[7][9] The name of the alliance is believed to have been heavily influenced by the JVP, who insisted it be named Eksath Janathā Nidahas Sandānaya (Sinhala: United National People's Alliance) such that it preceded the Eksath Jāthika Pakshaya (Sinhala: United National Party) on the Sinhala ballot paper.[8] The influence of the JVP (and later the Jathika Hela Urumaya) has been identified as one of the reasons for the nationalist leanings of the alliance.[10]

A collection of left-leaning political parties then entered the alliance at various dates after January 2004 with memorandums of understanding of their own. These parties included the Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya, Desha Vimukthi Janatha Pakshaya, Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, the National Congress Party, the Muslim National Unity Alliance, the Communist Party of Sri Lanka and the Lanka Sama Samaja Party.[8] In the April 2004 election, the UPFA won 45.6% of the popular vote and 105 out of 225 seats, limiting the UNP to just 82 seats.[11] Despite the Eelam People's Democratic Party's Douglas Devananda (the party's sole MP) joining the UPFA soon after the election, the alliance formed a minority government, lacking 7 seats for an outright majority.[8] Three MPs from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress defected to the UPFA on 9 August 2004, while the Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC) joined the alliance on 3 September with eight sitting MPs, stabilizing the UPFA's position.[12][13][14] One more CWC MP, Vadivel Suresh, crossed over on 14 December 2005.[15] Nevertheless, the alliance faced difficulties exerting control or influence in parliament in its early days, notably during the vote for Speaker, where it was unable to get its own ranks to vote for a UPFA candidate.[15]

The JVP broke away from the alliance on 16 June 2005 with its 39 MPs choosing to sit in opposition, citing differences with the SLFP leadership, particularly those stemming from Chandrika Kumaratunga's proposed Tsunami Relief Council (which the JVP had strongly opposed), and her appointment of Mahinda Rajapakse as Prime Minister, an appointment that the JVP had insisted should (and received assurances would) have gone to Lakshman Kadirgamar.[8][16][17] The breakaway was followed by the landmark Supreme Court ruling that declared Kumaratunga's term in office being complete on 21 December 2005, and ordered the Election Commission to hold presidential elections before November 2005.[8][18] The breakaway notwithstanding, the UPFA contested the election on 17 November with Mahinda Rajapaksa as its candidate and party leader; Rajapakse defeated the United National Party's Ranil Wickremesinghe with 50.29% of the vote. The 2005 election has since been plagued by accusations of manipulation, with opponents of Rajapakse and the UPFA accusing Rajapakse of paying off the LTTE to force ethnic Tamils to boycott the election through its Tamil National Alliance proxy, depriving Wickremesinghe of a key part of the UNP's electoral base.

Four further sets of defections to the UPFA took place between 2006 and 2008:

In addition, the UPFA managed to gain control of eight of the nine Provincial Councils between 2008 and 2009, breaking away from the tradition of holding provincial elections on a single date, utilizing victories on the war front as part of their provincial election campaigns.[15]

The end of the Sri Lankan Civil War in May 2009 is considered to have solidified the UPFA's hold on power. Mahinda Rajapakse contested the presidential election again in January 2010 as the UPFA's candidate, defeating the United National Front-led New Democratic Front's Sarath Fonseka, Rajapske's erstwhile ally and former Commander of the Sri Lanka Army.[32][33] Fonseka and the NDF rejected the election result, while the Election Commission provided conflicting accounts of the transparency of the polls.[34] The UPFA government denied the allegations and had Fonseka arrested and imprisoned on charges of treason and sedition.[35][36]

Parliamentary elections were held in April 2010, and was won by the UPFA again with a 45.60% share of the vote (105/225 seats). The alliance was not able to realize its campaign goal of a two-thirds majority (required for constitutional reform), however, although a subsequent series of opposition defections helped the alliance gain this majority and push through several constitutional amendments, including the removal of presidential term limits.[15][37][38] The UPFA administration initiated several infrastructure developments during the 2010-2015 period, including the country's first expressway network and beautification of the capital city.[39][40][41]

Current status

Deepening rifts within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party emerged over the 2010-2015 period, culminating in the SLFP's general secretary and minister of health Maithripala Sirisena defecting from the UPFA on 21 November 2014 to contest the 2015 presidential elections as part of a United National Party-led New Democratic Front.[42][43][44][45] The defection resulted in a loss of power for the UPFA in parliament, as loyalists followed Sirisena to the opposition.[46] Sirisena won the prematurely-called election with a 51.28% majority and appointed the UNP's Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister of a transitional coalition government dominated by the UNP and supported by Sirisena loyalists in the SLFP and UPFA, while a core of Rajapakse loyalists (the majority of sitting UPFA MPs) decided to sit in the opposition.[47][48] His victory resulted in Rajapakse handing over the chairmanship of the SLFP to Sirisena on the 16th January, while the UPFA Central Committee voted unanimously to appoint him leader of the UPFA on 16 March 2015.[5]

Parliament was dissolved by Sirisena in June 2015 for fresh parliamentary elections.[49] On the election held on 17 August 2015, the party won 95 seats (42.38%, down nearly 20% from the previous election) and signed a memorandum of understanding with the United National Party four days later on the 21 August, forming a national government.[50] The MoU cited economic development, ensuring freedom and democracy (particularly through implementation of the 19th amendment enacted by the short-lived transitional government), reduction of corruption, development of the health and education sectors, improving foreign relations, securing the rights of women and children, support and development of the arts and culture, and general mutual cooperation between the UPFA and UNP for a period of two years.[50][51][52] On the 9 February, the Rajapakse faction (consisting of 52 of the 95 UPFA MPs elected) formed an informal coalition named the 'Joint Opposition' and sat in the opposition acting as an independent faction of the UPFA, citing, among other factors, Sirisena's defection and cooperation with the UNP as a betrayal to core SLFP/UPFA voters and principles.[53][54] The MoU was allowed to lapse in April 2017 and, as of October 2017, has not been renewed; senior UPFA members have cited the results of the ongoing bond issuance scam investigation as being a key point of contention between the two political entities and a central determinant of future collaboration with the UNP.[55]

Youth wing

The UPFA had no formal youth wing, utilizing the Sri Lanka Freedom Party's youth wing as its main organ of youth outreach, with constituent parties using their own youth organizations. In 2010, Namal Rajapaksa founded the Nil Balakaya (Blue Brigade) as a united youth organization for the alliance, incorporating the SLFP youth front and envisioning a supporting role targeting the 2010 presidential election in particular.[56] The Nil Balakaya has been the subject of controversy, being accused of civil disturbances, intimidation and abuse of power; as such, the body was dissolved by the Sirisena unity government in February 2015, and the SLFP youth wing renamed the Nidahas Tharuna Peramuna (Free Youth Front), returning to its pre-2010 status as the chief youth outreach organ of the alliance.[57][58][59][60]

Member parties

The following parties currently make up the United People's Freedom Alliance:

Leaders

General secretaries

Electoral history

Sri Lanka Parliamentary Elections
Election year Votes Vote % Seats won +/– Government
2004 4,223,970 45.60%
105 / 225
Increase 105 Government
2010 4,846,388 60.33%
144 / 225
Increase 39 Government
2015 4,732,664 42.38%
95 / 225
Decrease 49 Government / Opposition [a]


Sri Lanka Presidential Elections
Election year Candidate Votes Vote % Result
2005 Mahinda Rajapaksa 4,887,152 50.29% Won
2010 Mahinda Rajapaksa 6,015,934 57.88% Won
2015 Mahinda Rajapaksa 5,768,090 47.58% Lost [b]

Notes

  1. ^ Part of the alliance joined the National Unity government led by the United National Party, while the rest stayed in the opposition
  2. ^ Even though Rajapaksa was defeated, the winner Sirisena was a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and subsequently became the UPFA chairman

References

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  2. ^ Uyangoda, Jayadeva (2013). "Sri Lanka's Ethnic Conflict: Role of the State". In Raghavan, V.R. Internal Conflicts- A Four State Analysis: India-Nepal-Sri Lanka-Myanmar. New Delhi: Vij Books India. p. 238. ISBN 9789382573418. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
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  40. ^ "Old Dutch Hospital in Colombo: Now open to the public". Groundviews. groundviews.org. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
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