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2015: The Year of Shock Elections: Sri Lanka, Israel, and the United Kingdom.

In less than 5 months in 2015, three national elections have been held where the results were a shock. An upset win. Totally unexpected, especially by the pollsters and the media. After three in a row, it is time for comment.

The three countries involved: Sri Lanka, Israel, and the United Kingdom.

Sri Lanka: The Sri Lankan election was held on January 8, 2015. Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa was heading for an easy victory. In power since 2005, he is the man who presided over the end of the blood-filled Sri Lankan civil war of 1983-2009. He finally defeated the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) and its effective, ruthless leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Having won the war, Rajapaksa proceeded to consolidate and lengthen his hold on power. After changing the constitution to abolish presidential term limits, Rajapaksa took his nation down the pathway of autocratic rule: media freedom were curbed, an authoritarian style came in, plus there were accusations of corruption, nepotism, poor governance, not to mention war crimes at the end of the civil war. 

The President called the election 2 years early, believing he would smoothly return to office. His former health minister, Maithripal Sirisena put his hand up as an opposition candidate. Despite reports of election violence, media abuse, misuse of state resources, Sirisena won 51.28% and Rajapaksa was out of office. Though there were rumours of an attempted, Rajapaksa-led coup, it did not happen and a smooth transition of power took its place, as promised. Sirisena pledged to abolish the executive presidency and have a Westminister-style cabinet.

Israel: The Israeli election was held on March 17th and had an amazing 72% turnout, not a small feat considering how often Israel goes to the polls. Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, campaigning for his 4th term, faced an uphill battle. The Labor opposition leader Isaac Herzog combined with Tzipi Livni for form the Zionist Union (ZU), and the left-leading Israeli media predicted ZU would stage an upset victory. The diverse Arab parties (yes, there are Arabs in the Israeli parliament [Knesset]) combined together to form The (Arab) Joint List. These parties vary from nationalist to communist to jihadist but they united to defeat Netanyahu. Current female Arab Knesset member (MK) Hanin Zoabi, an outspoken critic of Israel, was quoted as saying ‘I don’t see myself as an Israeli Member of Knesset, but as a Palestinian ...We are using the Knesset to advance the Palestinian struggle ... [and] we are doing this from within ‘Occupied Palestine.’  So in essence, these Arab parties really represent the Palestinian Authority and its rival Hamas within the Knesset.

The Arab parties did well in the election - they are the 3rd biggest bloc in the Knesset with 13 seats.
The Zionist Union received 24 seats. Netanyahu did even better than them all - 30 seats. Though Herzog hammered Netanyahu during the campaign about failing to address the economic issues of the normal Israeli, once again the Prime Minister triumphed. Though noted for his oratorical skills in Hebrew and English, his main credentials are security and counter-terrorism. Instead of being in coalition with center-left parties like his last term, Netanyahu now has a strog bloc of right-wing and religious parties. He may have more support when it comes to foreign poliy and Palestinian issues.

This election result was not expected, either in or out of Israel, but it happened.  Why? And why was the UK election a shock, too? To be continued in the next blog ....


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