In Sri Lanka’s Elections, a Rajapaksa Win Would Seal Democracy’s Fate

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, right, and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, wave during a party convention in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Aug. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, right, and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, wave during a party convention in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Aug. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

Authoritarian populism has returned to Sri Lanka. Since Gotabaya Rajapaksa became the country’s seventh president last November, he has, as many feared, brought back the repressive and undemocratic policies of his older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was president from 2005 to 2015. In the first few months of Gotabaya’s presidency, the Rajapaksas—Sri Lanka’s most prominent political family—moved swiftly to centralize power, with Gotabaya immediately appointing Mahinda as prime minister. The two other Rajapaksa brothers, Chamal and Basil, hold important political positions as well; the former is a Cabinet minister, and the latter is both Gotabaya’s “chief strategist” and the national […]

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