Victory in war and defeat in peace: politics and economics of post-conflict Sri Lanka

Author name: 
Prema-chandra Athukorala
Sisira Jayasuriya

This paper examines causes and implications of Sri Lanka’s political regime shift in February 2015, which has been widely hailed a victory for democracy, against the backdrop of the country’s political and economic development in the post-independence era. The regime shift vividly demonstrates that voters, given the chance, turn against leaders they perceive to be corrupt, nepotistic or needlessly divisive, even if they deliver handsome growth figures; there are limits to gaining political legitimacy in a multi-ethnic state simply by creating cleavages between majority and minority communities. For the first time, the minority communities in Sri Lanka appear to have felt themselves part of, and potentially an important influence on, the national political scene. It is, however, difficult at this stage to predict whether the regime change would usher in an era of ethnic harmony and robust economic growth. One hope is that war-weariness and discontents with the previous regime seem to have led to a greater willingness to accommodate diverse perspectives and demands within the political system.

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