Three candidates in fray for Sri Lanka presidential polls

Colombo, Jul 19 (EFE).- Three leaders, including interim president and former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Tuesday filed their nominations for Sri Lanka’s presidential polls, which will be held in the parliament on Wednesday via secret ballot after former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country and resigned from the post.

Apart from Wickremesinghe, lawmaker Dullas Alahapperuma from Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party and Anura Kumara Dissanayake of the left-wing coalition NPP are set to vie for the presidency, according to parliament proceedings aired lived by broadcasters.

The voting, set to be carried out through a secret ballot among the 225 members of the parliament, is set to kick off at 10 am on Wednesday.

A likely contender and analysts’ favorite for the presidency, opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, made a surprise announcement on Tuesday morning withdrawing his candidature in support of Alahapperuma, who is backed by a rebel faction of SLPP, while the rest of the party has supported Wickremesinghe.

“For the greater good of my country that I love and the people I cherish I hereby withdraw my candidacy for the position of president,” Premadasa tweeted.

He added that his party Samagi Jana Balawegaya and “our alliance and our opposition partners will work hard towards making Dullas (Alahapperuma) victorious.”

The presidential polls have been necessitated after Rajapaksa fled the country amid massive protests against his government and then resigned from his post.

Wickremesinghe, who had been appointed the prime minister by Rajapaksa in May, took over as the interim president after the latter’s departure and on Monday imposed a state of emergency in the backdrop of a volatile political situation.

Sri Lanka has been suffering for months from shortages of medicines, food, and fuel, partly due to heavy debts, flawed government policies, and the impact of the pandemic on tourism.

This led to protests breaking out across the island in late March, when thousands of people took to the streets demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation over his mishandling of the economic crisis.

On Jul. 9, hundreds of protesters stormed the official residences of Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe, and forced them to vacate the buildings as well as promise to tender their resignations.

However, only the president followed through with the promise after fleeing to Maldives and eventually taking refuge in Singapore, while Wickremesinghe stepped in to take his place ahead of the parliamentary session. EFE


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