In January 2015, Maithripala Sirisena (left) surprised the world when he defeated his old boss Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka’s presidential election, analyst Taylor Dibbert writes for Foreign Affairs:
His victory was followed by parliamentary elections in August, which reiterated the demand for democratic reform and improved governance. Soon after, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP), the country’s two big Sinhala–Buddhist parties, agreed to form a coalition government. The nation was now set to turn its attention to a wide-ranging reform agenda to address some of the problems that plagued it during Rajapaksa’s decade in power, including corruption, nepotism, and the excessive centralization of power.
Colombo has been buzzing with talk of wide-ranging reforms; diplomats, aid workers and others have been eager to visit the country since Rajapaksa was thrown out of power, adds Dibbert, a Penn Kemble fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy:
Many speak of Sri Lanka’s proclaimed “democratic transition.” However, in order to truly understand the country’s current situation, it is important to first get real about the progress that has been made to date and the significant challenges ahead.
The truth is that, although some things are changing, far too much has stayed the same. Sirisena’s legacy, the lasting significance of the current coalition and the future of Sri Lankan politics now rest squarely on the new government’s willingness to turn rhetoric into reality.