Sri Lankans to pick their president in Nov 16 vote

COLOMBO • Sri Lanka will hold a presidential election on Nov 16, as its US$87 billion (S$120 billion) economy struggles to recover from a political crisis and the aftermath of deadly Islamist bombings.

Nominations for the contest will close by Oct 7.

Election Commission officials have said there could be a record 18 candidates in this year's election, while analysts say it is possible a run-off count will be needed to decide the winner of a tight contest in which no one is likely to poll more than 50 per cent of first-preference votes.

The main opposition Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, led by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, has already nominated his younger brother and wartime defence chief Gotabaya for the post.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's centre-right United National Party is yet to nominate its candidate, but party sources told Reuters it was likely to be either deputy leader Sajith Premadasa or Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

Mr Gotabaya, 70, is widely seen as the front runner due to his popularity among Sri Lanka's Sinhala Buddhist majority, many of whom credit him with ending a 26-year civil war in 2009 and believe that Colombo needs a seasoned leader after the Easter bombings that killed more than 250 people.

However, Mr Gotabaya faces a legal battle over allegations of misappropriation of state funds when he was defence chief, which he denies, along with questions over the renunciation of his United States citizenship.

There is no opinion polling on the popularity of candidates.

 

Sluggish economic growth, national security, endemic corruption and deep ethnic and religious divisions in the South Asian nation will be key issues at the upcoming polls, political analysts say.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2019, with the headline 'Sri Lankans to pick their president in Nov 16 vote'. Print Edition | Subscribe