Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious developing country that has enjoyed continuous universal adult franchise since 1931. Under a new constitution enacted in 1978, Sri Lanka moved to a presidential system of government. Since 1982 five presidential elections were conducted. This paper analyzes voter behavior by looking at all the five presidential elections. This study shows that all the winners of the presidential elections (except in 2005) won them by appealing across racial and religious boundaries with a popular mandate. In 2005, there was a shift; the winner was able to secure victory by promoting a hard-line pro-Sinhala nationalistic platform. This signals a departure from the previous elections, as in the past it was understood that minority support is crucial to win the Presidency. The 2005 election sends a dangerous signal to a country that is ravaged by ethnic violence for over 20 years. Further, this study looks at the voter behavior in urban vs. rural areas. Similar to the red vs. blue states divide in the US, in Sri Lanka, there is a strong urban-rural division in voter behavior. Logistic regression was used to analyze the results of the elections.
Warnapala, Yajni and Yehiya, Zufni, "Polarization of the Sri Lankan Polity: An Analysis of Presidential Elections (1982 – 2005)" (2008). Feinstein College of Arts & Sciences Faculty Papers. Paper 8.