Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lanka presidential polls on Jan 26

Sri Lanka’s Election Commission on Friday announced that the Presidential elections will be held on January 26 next year, with incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa expected to face a challenge from former Army Chief Sarath Fonseka, architect of the military victory against the LTTE.

“Elections will be held on the 26th of January,” Commissioner of Elections Dayananda Dissanayake said. An official statement said that nominations would be accepted on December 17. Sri Lanka has over 14 million eligible voters.

The announcement came four days after President Mahinda Rajapaksa decided to advance the polls by nearly two years.

Rajapaksa and his allies decided to hold the polls by January next year apparently to cash in on the military victory against LTTE, which held one-third of Sri Lanka’s land under its control when he took over as President in 2005.

However, the President is expected to face a tough challenge from Sarath Fonseka, who quit as Chief of Defence Staff a fortnight ago following a spat with Rajapaksa, as he is expected to enter the fray as the common candidate for the Opposition.

Almost all the Opposition parties, including former Premier Ranil Wickremasinghe’s United National Party, have expressed support for Fonseka’s candidature.

Fonseka is yet to formally announce his candidature. However, local media reported that the Army General may formally announce his decision on Sunday.

UNP chief Wickremesinghe had on Thursday announced his party’s support to Fonseka. Earlier, the radical JVP had announced shifting of its support from President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Fonseka.

In his bid to unseat Rajapaksa, Fonseka is also expected to get the backing of regional and minority parties, who have formed an umbrella grouping along with the UNP to contest the elections.

An ally of the United National Front in Sri Lanka has said if Fonseka wins the presidential polls, UNP chief Ranil Wickremasinghe will be made the Prime Minister.

“If Fonseka wins, UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe will be appointed the Prime Minister,” Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Mahajana wing) leader Mangala Samaraweera, said on Thursday. He said the government had been spreading rumours that Fonsaka’s victory would pave way for a military rule, the Island newspaper reported.

© Indian Express

Related Links:
Sri Lanka's presidential poll set for Jan. 26 - AP
Sri Lanka to hold presidential poll on Jan. 26 - Reuters
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