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Sri Lanka crisis: Wickremesinghe, Premadasa among 4 leaders in race for Prez's Post

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oi-Prakash KL

| Published: Saturday, July 16, 2022, 15:52 [IST]

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Colombo, July 16: The process of electing a new president in Sri Lanka to succeed Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who resigned after unprecedented protests against his government over the country's economic collapse, has started with four contenders in the race.

Sri Lanka's acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe, main Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, Marxist JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Dullas Alahapperuma, a breakaway SLPP candidate, are the leaders who have so far announced their candidacy to contest the July 20 vote in Parliament. They will be contesting to succeed Rajapaksa for the rest of his term until November 2024.

Sri Lankas acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe Sri Lanka's acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe

Parliament met for a brief special session on Saturday to announce the vacancy in the presidency following the resignation of Rajapaksa.

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During the 13-minute special session, Dhammika Dassanayake, Secretary General of Parliament, announced the vacancy for the post of president. Dasanayake said that nominations for the election of the new president will be heard on Tuesday and if there is more than one candidate, the lawmakers will vote on Wednesday.

Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Dissanayake, 53, on Saturday officially declared his intention to contest the election. "The main reason for this is that we feel that our party and our leader represents many of the aspirations and in fact the spirit of the people's movement that has been taking place in our country for so long," his party's spokesperson Harini Amarasuriya told reporters.

Main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) leader Premadasa, while officially declaring his intention to contest the vote, said, "Even though it is an uphill struggle, I am convinced that truth will prevail."

The 225-member Parliament is dominated by Rajapaksa's ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party. The ruling SLPP which officially announced its backing for Wickremesinghe, the acting president, found some resistance to its decision from within. Its chair GL Peiris said the party should not vote for anyone other than its own member. He said the party must back Alahapperuma, a breakaway SLPP candidate who has put himself forward to the vote.

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For the first time since 1978, Sri Lanka will elect the crisis-hit country's next president through a secret vote by the MPs and not through a popular mandate, following the resignation of Rajapaksa.

After thousands of protesters stormed his official residence, Rajapaksa had announced that he would step down on July 13. However, he fled to the Maldives without resigning from his office. From the Maldives, he went to Singapore on Thursday from where he e-mailed his resignation.

Story first published: Saturday, July 16, 2022, 15:52 [IST]

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