‘Stop-Genocide’ candidate secures record result, but misses London seat

[TamilNet, Monday, 08 June 2009, 02:49 GMT]
Ms. Jan Jananayagam, an independent candidate contesting the European Parliament elections in London, secured over 50,000 votes, an unprecedented result, and a record for an independent candidate in an EU election. Though Ms Jananayagam failed to secure a seat, her campaign team said they were delighted with the results. Despite having decided to contest only days before voter registration closed and four weeks before the polls, the Tamil candidate had amassed more votes than some well-established small parties in Britain, and more than twice all other independent candidates combined, they said. Apart from Tamil expatriates, her campaign, conducted by students and volunteers, had drawn support and donations from British voters and other minority communities.

Out of the eight London seats, the main opposition Conservative Party took three (and almost 480,000 votes) and the ruling Labour Party two (with almost 373,000 votes). One seat each went to the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the UK Independent Party.

The proportional representation system used to allocate MEP (Member of European Parliament) seats meant that in this election Ms. Jananayagam could have secured one with 100,000 votes, analysts felt.

Janani (Jan) Jananayagam, MEP candidate
Janani (Jan) Jananayagam, MEP candidate
Ms. Jananayagam, a Jaffna-born British citizen, had agreed to contest a few days before voter registration closed on May 19th. The UK polls were held on June 4.

“Unfortunately we were unable to get many Tamil voters registered in time. However, for four weeks of campaigning this is a great result,” a campaign leader told TamilNet Sunday.

"Also, we faced challenges in our door-to-door voter campaign as the attention of the Tamil community in London drawn to protests and to Colombo's slaughter of Tamils in Mullaiththeevu," he added.

The established parties had been campaigning for several months, sometimes years, using long-established campaign machines and with substantial budgets, he pointed out.

Candidates for the main parties, gathered with those of smaller parties and the independent candidates to hear the official announcement, expressed shock that an independent candidate could amass fifty thousand votes in London.

The next largest independent candidate was Steven Cheung, who campaigned mainly amongst London’s Chinese community and got a shade under five thousand votes.

Ms. Jananayagam had campaigned on a platform of getting the UK and EU to take action to stop genocide abroad and protect human rights and civil liberties, both at home and elsewhere. She is the UK representative for the pressure group Tamils Against Genocide (TAG).

Tamil activists said Jan’s election campaign had helped them reach out to other political forces and communities in Britain.

In the three weeks before the elections, students and volunteers campaigned door to door and also met with organisations and media from several other communities, including the Jewish, Kurdish and several Indian ones, they said.

“We were able to build strong networks with many British political groups and other communities in London, relationships that will strengthen our future advocacy work,” a student leader said.

The theme of ‘stopping genocide’ had struck a special cord with Jewish voters, some of whom also made welcome financial contributions towards the campaigns costs, he said.

Other minority communities had declared their support for Ms. Jananayagam and her campaign goals via their media, they said.

Ms. Jananayagam was not available for comment in the early hours of Monday, but a campaign representative spoke to reporters.

“Jan is grateful for the enthusiastic support extended by London’s Tamils, particularly at this crucial and difficult time for the Tamil people,” he said.

“She is especially grateful to the many, many volunteers who put so much time and energy into a campaign launched at the last minute and to everyone who spread the word through their social and professional networks.”

“She is also grateful to the many non-Tamil people who voted for her, recognizing that genocide is ongoing even in 2009, and the gap between international rhetoric and practice when it comes to human rights and civil liberties is alarmingly big. She will of course continue to campaign tirelessly on these fundamental issues.”


Chronology:


External Links:
BBC: European Election 2009: London

 

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