MEDAMULANA (Sri Lanka) • Sri Lanka's former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, regarded as a hero by some and a war criminal by others for the brutal defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels six years ago, announced yesterday that he would stand in an election for prime minister next month.
"I accept the request to contest the election," Mr Rajapaksa said at a rally in his Hambantota district constituency, referring to the Aug 17 parliamentary polls, when Sri Lanka is set to choose its prime minister.
But President Maithripala Sirisena has refused to make him the prime ministerial candidate of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which he now leads after beating Mr Rajapaksa in the presidential election earlier this year.
Although he has not said which party will be his vehicle for the election, political analysts say Mr Rajapaksa's candidacy risks splintering the SLFP further.
The parliamentary elections come after months of deadlock in the legislature as a six-month-old coalition government cobbled together by Mr Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has struggled to pass key political reforms in the island state.
Together, they had sought to curb presidential powers, which they had accused Mr Rajapaksa of abusing during his decade in power, and depoliticise state institutions such as the police, judiciary and public services.